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What The Elon Musk?

Thoughts On Scalable Disruption…

We’ve had some admiration for Elon Musk lately. He’s got so many companies and he’s literally propelling humanity. He keeps making money moves, cultivating new projects and fostering competition across transportationrenewable energy and space travel. A modern day super hero. Elon even has an AI coalition to protect the world from a literal ‘Judgement Day’. That’s why, when our hero Elon came out with a new self driving truck, we couldn’t help but also think of The Dark Side.

Trucks carry more than $10 trillion worth of product on our highways each year. Maybe that’s why Elon Musk decided to tackle the less than seductive space. As we all know by now, one of Tesla’s core value propositions is its robust autopilot feature and their Semi truck is no different. Many have wondered what this means for the nation’s 3.5 million truck drivers that make up a significant chunk of our middle class.

These jobs aren’t in any imminent danger. The reality is that while it may be simpler for a vehicle to drive on autopilot on the highway without traffic signals and pedestrians, it is far more complex legally. Especially since the current legislation neglects to address the role of automated trucks. Leaving this to be worked out on a state level makes routes like Embark’s TX-CA refrigerator pipeline a legal headache. Federal regulation on the topic is a decade away and the technology to remove the necessity for human oversight in-cab won’t be here any sooner.

But the space is often underrepresented in the continual quest for innovation. Logistics is one of our largest industries and therefore presents the opportunity for innovators to create scalable tech with an equally scalable built-in infrastructure. Tesla aside, other tech giants are beginning to weigh into the space as manufacturers burgeoning production continues to grow the industry itself. Amazon in its incessant bid for world domination has made an opening salvo at the space now with its Relay app, and Google and Uber are in an ongoing lawsuit over self-driving trucks.

The greater question though is how the social contract factors into innovation. What is our society’s responsibility when someone’s vision in Silicon Valley ends up displacing 3% of the American workforce a quarter century later? Not that truck driving is a particularly pleasant occupation, it experiences a 90% turnover annually but we can’t let the fact that this space is optimal for a robot take-over distract from the larger conversation at hand: What direction does society go when humans are no longer a necessity in the workforce?

Written by Nathan Raffel

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