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Aboard the Tech Express

Two weeks ago, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill to allow driverless, autonomous cars on California roads by 2015. {complink 2294|Google} has logged hundreds of thousands of driverless miles using modified Prius hybrids. My mental gears started mashing as I began to think in terms of what this could mean for the supply chain and job implications for individuals.

For the supply-chain, if this is a reality that is upgradable to larger vehicles used by freight forwarders, many jobs might be replaced with these flawlessly operating transports, and in the process we would be accepting more and more loss of our own autonomy as these human-job replacing technologies became more autonomous.

Imagine the potential future. A software instruction is uploaded to an autonomous truck's GPS system. The route is calculated and plotted using real-time traffic and road condition information. Now with the data upload for optimal transport logistics, the truck's departure is timed and routed to avoid roads where construction is underway, and each intermediate stop time and location is anticipated, giving rise to automated check points for supply chain security purposes.

RFID readers pick up the trucks' location through anticipated routing points, and if the truck does not appear at the next reader when expected, then the transportation company is informed immediately. Now, the additional anti-hijack technologies include those currently used in containers equipped with sensors that monitor temperature, humidity, doors' open and closed conditions, acceleration, and impact incident detection. A quick read using remote polling will immediately tell the company whether any kind of security breach has occurred.

Secondary measures such as RFID beacon-enabled contents can be initiated to track the goods in transport if they have been removed from the trucks cargo carriers. This scenario is another example of converging technologies. The day is coming where human public behavior will be determined by mass deployment technology capabilities.

You are sitting in your living room and you receive a call from your local police department. It is sending a car to your house and would like you to come downtown for a short visit. You are informed that the car should be at your house in five minutes, and you are expected to be in the car in two minutes. The car is equipped with a camera with image recognition, and as you approach, the doors unlock and a computer-generated voice invites you to get in the back seat and cautions you to watch your head as you enter. You enter the car, the door closes and locks. The car pulls away from the curb, and you notice that the autonomous vehicle's environment has been customized for you as you are being transported to hopefully what will not be your final destination.

So much for science non-fiction. The supply chain security will have many tools that will be designed to frustrate theft and ensure reliable accounting of both time and materials. On-time deliveries will be more common, and with the elimination of alcohol, bad drivers, and drugs in the transportation chain, the overall reliability of the entire system will improve. That is why it will happen.

The justification and availability of the big dollar expenditures will not be an issue as the gain will far outweigh the pain. In the meantime, if you get an invitation to go for a trip in a driverless car, enjoy the ride. We are all on board the Tech Express already. We may as well go to the end of the line, quietly.

4 comments on “Aboard the Tech Express

  1. FLYINGSCOT
    October 12, 2012

    I must admit the thought of a driverless car let loose on a busy Californian road is pretty scary.  Can you share some details about the proposed bill or is the bill enacted already?

  2. Ariella
    October 12, 2012

    @flyingscot but is it any worse than a driver who may be experiencing road rage? 

  3. Barbara Jorgensen
    October 12, 2012

    Funny this post came out today as I was following a car, with a driver, that randomly stopped four times before bravely comitting to a left hand turn. Although that's fairly common in Boston (no turn signal; no pulling over), I have to think this person was listening to its GPS (or worse yet, Siri on the iPhone 5.) There's only one possible left turn on my street and it was clearly visible from my position behind the frequent stopper. I'm not sure which is worse: drivers or driverless cars. Today I'm leaning toward drivers.

  4. dalexander
    October 14, 2012

    @Flyingscot. SB 1298 was the formal recognition making it officially legal for driverless cars to be operated on California roads. So Nevada and California are authorized. Google has been testing their version of the autonomous vehicles since 2010. They have 300,000 miles logged with nary an accident. Police will pull a driverless car over just to get a picture standing by it, but no traffic violations and no accidents is about as safe as it can get.

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