Robotic trucks are beginning to roll out, carrying cargo and promises of revolutionizing freight hauling, reducing traffic, and lowering pollution. But previous waves of automation have eliminated millions of jobs in the United States. And a transformation in truck driving could come with big costs for the 3.5 million truckers who toil in one of America’s most enduring occupations and play an outsized role in our nation’s economy and road-heavy culture. Will driverless trucks become cramped and lonely “sweatshops on wheels” maintained by poorly paid attendants? What would it take to make this highly visible shift to automation serve society by creating good new jobs, making roads safer, and even helping the planet?
University of Pennsylvania sociologist and former truck driver Steve Viscelli, author of The Big Rig: Trucking and the Decline of the American Dream, and Issues in Science and Technology senior editor Lisa Margonelli roll into Zócalo to consider how automated trucking might transform American life.