Truck driving could be the next new desk job. In the near future, you could have the disquieting experience of seeing nobody sitting in the driver’s seat in the tractor-trailer to your right in traffic. Instead, the rig’s operator could be operating the rig remotely, and not even continuously, while sitting many miles away behind a desk.

There is an almost overwhelming financial incentive to automate trucks. Trucks carry more than 70% of U.S. domestic freight tonnage, and the U.S. is experiencing a severe shortage of truck drivers. The shortage of drivers may be as large as 175,000 by 2026, according to the American Trucking Association. Trucking is a $700 million-a-year industry, and about a third of those costs are spent on drivers. Automation has the potential to address the shortage of truck drivers, reduce costs, and perhaps increase safety. But are we really ready to trust the operation of loaded 80,000-pound tractor-trailer rigs to automated systems?

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