Union Leader Wants To Require Drivers In Self-Driving Cars

Illustration for article titled Union Leader Wants To Require Drivers In Self-Driving Cars
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If autonomous cars are supposed to save lives, shouldn’t they also save jobs? All that and more in The Morning Shift for May 18, 2021.

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1st Gear: Autonomous Vehicles Should Have A Jobs Guarantee, Honestly

There are two big transitions going on in the car world: the switch from internal combustion to electricity and the switch from human drivers to computers. The first already threatens jobs as there are a ton of parts internal combustion-engine cars require (both for factory workers to build and assemble as well as mechanics to repair) and there is already some talk of ensuring a jobs guarantee for EVs.

AVs, though, still need a jobs promise, and one prominent labor leader wants one, as Reuters reports:

Greg Regan, president of the Transportation Trades Department for the AFL-CIO, will tell a U.S. House of Representatives Energy and Commerce subcommittee that autonomous vehicles place “millions of jobs at risk” and any legislation to speed deployment of self-driving cars should not apply to commercial trucks weighing 10,000 pounds or more, according to his written testimony released by the panel on Monday.

“We do not allow passenger airplanes to operate without pilots or passenger rail to run without engineers, and we should use a similar approach with AVs that operate on our often-congested roadways and in complex transit networks,” Regan says in his testimony.

This seems like a good idea, even if “person who sits at the front of a car that drives itself” is maybe not a job I want.

2nd Gear: Tata Down $2 Billion On Jaguar Land Rover

India has been going through it with COVID-19 for some time now, so it’s perhaps no surprise that the Indian parent company to Jaguar Land Rover is struggling. Though sales are up in China, JLR is down, as Reuters reports:

Tata Motors incurred a charge of 149.94 billion rupees ($2.05 billion) related to asset write-downs and restructuring costs at JLR.

Still, the JLR unit’s sales in China jumped 127% from a year ago. Overall retail sales, which accounts for most of Tata Motors’ revenue, was up 12.4% from a year ago.

For the quarter ended March 31, Tata Motors reported a consolidated net loss of 76.05 billion rupees ($1.04 billion), compared with a loss of 98.94 billion rupees a year earlier.

Analysts were expecting the carmaker to log a profit of 26.72 billion rupees, according to Refinitiv IBES data.

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3rd Gear: More Kia Fire-Related Recall Fixes

Another day, another issue with Kias catching on fire. This time there’s a new fix for cars that have already been recalled, which must be fun if you’re an owner of one of these cars. From Automotive News:

Kia Motors America has issued a new fix for more than 440,000 vehicles recalled last year because of the possibility of leaking brake fluid that can lead to fires while parked or driving.

The affected vehicles in the U.S. are 283,803 Kia Optima sedans from the 2013-15 model years and 156,567 Kia Sorento crossovers from 2014-15, according to a document submitted May 10 to U.S. vehicle safety regulators.

[...]

In the previous recall, Kia instructed dealers to inspect the HECU for leaking brake fluid and to replace the unit if leaking brake fluid is found.

Kia said it has now developed an updated fix to enhance the unit’s protection against “significant overcurrent and subsequent shorting that could result in a fire.”

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4th Gear: And More Ford F-150 Delays

Another day, another issue with Ford rolling out new vehicles! This time it’s the already-delayed F-150 getting another delay. The problem is the chip shortage, which has been going on for what seems like an eternity now. From Automotive News:

Ford Motor Co. will temporarily reduce output of the nation’s bestselling vehicle — the F-150 pickup — at its Dearborn Truck Plant just days after President Joe Biden is expected to visit a new electric vehicle center nearby as the semiconductor shortage continues to impact production.

The Dearborn, Mich., plant will fall to one shift from three the week of May 24 as a result of the worsening chip shortage. Ford’s other F-150 plant, Kansas City Assembly, will be completely idled that week.

Additionally, Ford will idle its Louisville Assembly Plant, which builds the Escape and Lincoln Corsair crossovers, the week of May 24.

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5th Gear: Meanwhile At Ford, Biden Will Talk More About EVs

Keep your eyes open for more news on Biden’s much-hyped electric vehicle plans, which have been a little vague so far. We’ve had a dollar figure (about $174 billion) but not much else. Biden will be speaking at Ford for the debut of the electric F-150 Lightning (still a great name) and hopefully we’ll get more details. Reuters lays out what to expect:

President Joe Biden will make the case for his $174 billion electric vehicle plan on Tuesday, calling for government grants for new battery production facilities during a visit to a Ford Motor Co. electric vehicle plant in Michigan.

He will also rule out consumer incentives for high-priced electric luxury models, according to a White House fact sheet reviewed by Reuters, as he argues for dramatic government spending to prod Americans to buy electric vehicles at a preview of Ford’s new EV F-150 pickup truck.

The White House wants to encourage new battery production facilities, which are key to ramping up U.S. electric vehicle manufacturing

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Reverse: Another Example Of A Civil Rights Case Being About Transportation

This one was about segregation in railroad cars.

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Neutral: What Part Of Your Driving Do You Wish Was Automated?

I was just driving back from a town in the Hudson Valley and finally figured out my optimal drive home (one with was few turns as possible), one I’d always thought doable but Google never quite gave me. It was sweet, winding, beautiful, and convenient and there was nothing about it I wished was automated. I am also planning out a trip to the middle of Pennsylvania and not exactly looking forward to parking myself on 80 for hours on end. Maybe there’s a good bus. Or three.

Raphael Orlove is features editor for Jalopnik.

DISCUSSION

shanemorris
Shane Morris

I made a TikTok about this recently, but I’ll roughly repeat it here: Artificial intelligence is going to threaten many job categories, and I’m talking about entire verticals of employment... and this is a 3-5 year problem. (I have mentioned before, I work in this field, so I know the landscape extremely well.)

Amazon Go pioneered “cashier-less” pay systems. You walk into a store, cameras see what you pick up, and when you exit, you automatically pay. There is no scanning barcodes. There are many systems like this that will be rolling out in major grocery store chains withing 36-60 months. Those self-serve kiosks were just the beginning. Retail is going to be gutted by these technologies, and the “fight for $15" will only encourage business owners to replace a higher wage worker with a fixed-cost machine.

Back of house restaurant preparation and food preparation are under the gun. Pizza, burgers, and other jobs that are highly mechanical and repetitive will be machine-replaced. It’s just a matter of when the payoff for these machines roughly matches the throughput cycle of the wages that would be earned. (Around $15,000 per employee replaced, give or take a few grand. If these can be financed easily, it will happen sooner.)

Then of course there are the long haul professional truck drivers. This is the hard part, because it’s difficult to program for chaos. There are kids on bikes, deer, joggers, falling tree limbs, weather elements, flooding roads, and all sorts of other changes that make self-driving cars the last real frontier. I’d wager that we’re about 10-15 years away from the type of self-driving that picks you up from your doorstep and drops you off at work. The human factors behind “freedom” and a car being a symbol of autonomy are bigger than the programming hurdles.

In case you’re wondering, why yes, this is an excellent time to dovetail the conversation about innovation with our need for UBI, because these things go hand in hand. We’re creating our own replacements, and I’d like to make sure that equity is shared across society, rather than isolated to the lucky class who commands the robot army.

... it’s not exactly the plot of Terminator, but it’s damn close. I’d consider that a negative.