AI and the Future of Work: Preparing the Workforce for an AI-Driven Economy

By Brent Orrell, U.S. Chamber of Commerce

To paraphrase Mark Twain, reports of the “end of work” have been greatly exaggerated – more than once. Throughout history, the arrival of new technology has been regarded as a threat to human work and, in every instance, new technology has been integral to unlocking new work, new value, and rising incomes.

This hopeful view is not the same thing, however, as saying that new technology, like artificial intelligence, will be all upside for every worker, all the time, everywhere. The recent report from the U.S. Chamber’s Commission on Artificial Intelligence Competition, Inclusion, and Innovation acknowledges that the effects of AI on employment will be both uneven and hard to predict. The report emphasizes that, at its core, AI tools are informing and expanding, not replacing, human labor and, “if developed and deployed ethically, [AI] has the ability to augment human capabilities and empower people to do much more.”

How Workers and Businesses Can Prepare for the AI Economy of the Future

By its nature, technological innovation requires businesses and workers to learn and adapt—and learning and adaptation can be hard. Sometimes, it means upskilling within an existing job and at other times finding a whole new job in a different sector.

This learning and adaptation process is likely to be particularly demanding when it comes to AI. A recent University of Pennsylvania study found that 80 percent of American jobs are likely to see at least 10 percent of their tasks altered by AI while almost 20 percent of jobs will see at least 50 percent of their tasks altered. Another study by Goldman Sachs largely echoed these findings estimating that 18 percent of jobs globally could be computerized with “knowledge” and “information” tasks especially exposed.

During one of the AI Commission’s field hearings, Cheryl Oldham, vice president of education policy at the U.S. Chamber, emphasized that if we’re going to minimize any labor market disruptions and build new and effective pathways that lead to AI-related jobs, “we need to proactively lean into workforce development.”

To do so, the report recommends:

Training and Reskilling: The creation of new programs that can help ease worker transitions find and improve incentives for businesses to invest in retraining as necessary.

Educating the Future Workforce: Urging students and workers to prepare early and to continuously upgrade their knowledge, skills, and abilities.

Economic Policies: Encouraging Congress to adopt tax policies that support “human labor augmentation” within firms rather than ones that incentivize the substitution of technology for human labor and skill.

AI is neither the end of work nor a future delivered on a golden platter. Rather, it is a new tool that, just like new tools of the past, will take time, effort, and practice to master.

The Rules of the Road are About to Change

By Bill Gates, GatesNotes

I’ve always been a car guy. When I was younger, I used to love driving fast (sometimes too fast). Now, I look forward to my daily commute to work. There’s something so fun yet meditative about driving a car.

Despite that, I’m excited for the day I get to hand over control of my car to a machine.

That day is coming sooner rather than later. We’ve made tremendous progress on autonomous vehicles, or AVs, in recent years, and I believe we’ll reach a tipping point within the next decade. When it happens, AVs will change transportation as dramatically as the PC changed office work. A lot of this development has been enabled by the progress made in artificial intelligence more broadly.

Some background for those who might not know a lot about AVs: The best way to understand where we are today is by looking at the Society of American Engineers, or SAE, classification system. This is widely used to describe how autonomous a vehicle is.

In levels 0-2, a human driver is in full control of the car, but the vehicle can provide assistance through features like adaptive cruise control and lane centering. Level 3 is when the technology starts to move from the driver being in control to the vehicle being in control. By the time you reach the highest level, the car can be fully autonomous at all times and under all conditions—the level 5 vehicles of the future might not have steering wheels at all.

Right now, we’re close to the tipping point—between levels 2 and 3—when cars are becoming available that allow the driver to take their hands off the wheel and let the system drive in certain circumstances. The first level 3 car was recently approved for use in the United States, although only in very specific conditions: Autonomous mode is permitted if you’re going under 40 mph on a highway in Nevada on a sunny day.

Over the next decade, we’ll start to see more vehicles crossing this threshold. AVs are rapidly reaching the point where almost all of the technology required has been invented. Now, the focus is on refining algorithms and perfecting the engineering. There have been huge advances in recent years—especially in sensors, which scan the surrounding environment and tell the vehicle about things it needs to react to, like pedestrians crossing the street or another driver who swerves into your lane.

There are a lot of different approaches to AVs in development. Many vehicle manufacturers—like GM, Honda, and Tesla—are working on models that look like regular cars but have autonomous features. Then there are companies entirely focused on AVs, some of whose products are pushing the boundaries of what a vehicle can be—like a perfectly symmetrical robotaxi or public transit pods. Many others are developing components that can be installed to give an existing vehicle autonomous capabilities.

I recently had the opportunity to test drive—or test ride, I guess—a vehicle made by the British company Wayve, which has a fairly novel approach. While a lot of AVs can only navigate on streets that have been loaded into their system, the Wayve vehicle operates more like a person. It can drive anywhere a human can drive.

When you get behind the wheel of a car, you rely on the knowledge you’ve accumulated from every other drive you’ve ever taken. That’s why you know what to do at a stop sign, even if you’ve never seen that particular sign on that specific road before. Wayve uses deep learning techniques to do the same thing. The algorithm learns by example. It applies lessons acquired from lots of real world driving and simulations to interpret its surroundings and respond in real time.

The result was a memorable ride. The car drove us around downtown London, which is one of the most challenging driving environments imaginable, and it was a bit surreal to be in the car as it dodged all the traffic. (Since the car is still in development, we had a safety driver in the car just in case, and she assumed control several times.)

It’s not clear yet which approaches will be the most successful, since we’re only starting to reach the threshold where cars become truly autonomous. But once we get there, what will the transition to AVs actually look like?

For one thing, passenger cars will likely be one of the last vehicle types to see widespread autonomous adoption. Long-haul trucking will probably be the first sector, followed by deliveries. When you finally do step into an AV, it will likely be a taxi or a rental car. (Rental car companies lose a lot of money every year to driver-caused accidents, so they’re eager to transition to an AV fleet that is—at least in theory—less accident-prone.)

As AVs become more common, we’re going to have to rethink many of the systems we’ve created to support driving. Car insurance is a great example. Who is responsible when an autonomous vehicle gets in an accident, the person riding in the car or the company that programmed the software? Governments will have to create new laws and regulations. Roads might even have to change. A lot of highways have high-occupancy lanes to encourage carpooling—will we one day have “autonomous vehicles only” lanes? Will AVs eventually become so popular that you have to use the “human drivers only” lane if you want to be behind the wheel?

That type of shift is likely decades away, if it happens at all. Even once the technology is perfected, people might not feel comfortable riding in a car without a steering wheel at first. But I believe the benefits will convince them. AVs will eventually become cheaper than regular vehicles. And if you commute by car like me, just think about how much time you waste driving. You could instead catch up on emails, or read a good book, or watch the new episode of your favorite show—all things that are possible in fully autonomous vehicles. More importantly, AVs will help create more equity for the elderly and people with disabilities by providing them with more transportation options. And they’ll even help us avoid a climate disaster, since the majority in development are also electric vehicles.

Humanity has adapted to new modes of transportation before. I believe we will do it again. For most of our existence, we relied on natural ways of getting around: We walked, or rode on horseback, or traveled in a boat pushed by wind. Then, in the 1700s, we entered the locomotion age when mobility was powered by steam engines and internal combustion. Now, we find ourselves in the early days of the autonomous age. It’s an exciting time, and I can’t wait to see what new possibilities it unlocks.

From No Phone to Riding with Waymo One: Sheila Shares Her Journey with Foundation for Senior Living

By Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving,

In a single moment of luck and curiosity, Sheila found her beloved permanent home in Acacia Heights, a Phoenix community for seniors and people with disabilities.

She was walking along a Phoenix street one day while running errands, and, having bounced around from place to place for 10 years, she was looking for a more stable community to live. She looked up and happened to see Acacia Heights, an affordable housing community managed by the Phoenix nonprofit Foundation for Senior Living (FSL).

“The building and the colors… they’re subtle, they’re warm,” Sheila recalls. “The location attracted me.”

Sheila went inside and spoke with FSL property manager Jeff Weist. Jeff placed Sheila on a waiting list for housing at Acacia Heights, but Sheila didn’t have her own phone number. She relied on different people to check in with Jeff. A few weeks later, a spot opened up for her.

“I contacted her, and honestly I think she was almost crying on the phone when I contacted her to come in so we could start paperwork for housing for her,” Jeff remembers.

Sheila says Jeff went above and beyond to help find her a home at Acacia Heights.

“I’m very, very grateful that he brought me in and that I ended up with FSL,” Sheila says.

Sheila says she loves all the community events at Acacia Heights and the opportunities that come with being connected with FSL, an organization with a mission to serve seniors and people with disabilities and embracing innovations to drive their vision.

FSL and Waymo are partnering to explore how autonomous driving technology – which is designed to drive safely and obey road rules – could help seniors like Sheila stay connected and maintain their independence.

Sheila, who lives with a disability and does not own a car, says she enjoys hailing rides with Waymo One, Waymo’s fully autonomous ride-hailing service in Phoenix.

“Right now if I want to go to the store or go to an event downtown… Waymo will take me there safely and bring me back to the location,” Sheila explains. “That’s independence for me even though I don’t have a car.”

In addition to the convenience Waymo One offers, Sheila says she appreciates that Waymo’s technology is designed with safety as a foundational principle.

“I think it’s safer than having a human [driver]…  because Waymo has all these cameras that are set up to really be able to perceive any movement on the road,” Sheila explains. “And a lot of drivers nowadays, of course, we have distractions.”

The Waymo Driver is designed with a suite of sensors, including cameras, radar, and lidar, to see 360 degrees around the vehicle, identify and differentiate other road users, and make safe, proactive and defensive driving decisions that are based on myriad data points.

Sheila says using Waymo One to get around on her own is part of living an active lifestyle and connecting with the community, which she says helps keep her healthy.

“There’s a world out there,” Sheila emphasizes. “Just because I’m retired doesn’t mean I’m done or don’t want to work anymore and just stay at home. That is not healthy.”

Sheila says she’s ready to have adventures.

“I’m ready to go zip lining. I’m ready to jump out of a plane. Whenever I get that opportunity, I’m definitely going to do it. You have to stay active,” she shares.

Sheila says she urges others who may be in a time of transition or uncertain about the future to remember that nothing is permanent and not to dwell too much on negative things.

“You have to step out. You have to breathe air. You have to see people. You have to talk to people. You have to do different things. Don’t give up,” Sheila says.

She says she is grateful to FSL for helping provide a pathway to permanent housing and to Waymo for providing another mobility option to run errands, get her groceries, and connect to the community.

“That means a lot for us,” Sheila says. “We keep our independence at the same time and we take care of ourselves at the same time.”

Ohio Autonomous Vehicle Project Deploys Vans, Trucks on Rural Roads

By Stephen Goin, Fox News

In the race to implement autonomous vehicles, Ohio’s rural roadways have become the latest testing ground.

In March, the state’s smart mobility initiative, DriveOhio, deployed autonomous vehicles on active roadways in southeastern Ohio for the first time. The Rural Automated Driving Systems (ADS) project specifically focuses on how automated vehicles operate in rural areas as they navigate curving, and hilly terrain.

DriveOhio Executive Director Preeti Choudary told Fox Business the state’s automated vehicle testing is designed to help Ohio understand how to improve vehicle safety and efficiency in rural communities.

“A lot of the testing to date has been in urban communities, we want to make sure that technology is being tested on rural roadways, so we can experience the challenges and come up with solutions,” Choudhary said. “This critical work will provide valuable information to help advance the safe integration of automated vehicle technologies in Ohio and across the nation.”

A 2022 study from the Bureau of Transportation statistics finds that rural areas are disproportionately affected by traffic fatalities. While only 19% of the U.S. population lives in rural areas, 43% of all roadway fatalities occur on rural roads.

Choudhary said DriveOhio hopes to change those outcomes through the automated vehicle deployments underway.

The state is testing passenger vans equipped with AutonomouStuff technology − two Ford transit vans and a Chrysler Pacifica − on the divided highways and rural two-lane roads. This phase of the project focuses on the state’s 32 Appalachian counties as the most comprehensive testing effort yet to be conducted on rural roads in the United States. When the automated driving system is engaged, the technology will control steering, acceleration, and braking.

However, throughout the testing period, Choduhary said there will always be a driver behind the wheel.

“Many vehicles on the road today already have some degree of automated driving system technologies like adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, or emergency braking. Those systems are meant to enhance safety, but they certainly don’t replace the human driver,” Choudary said.

A second deployment of vehicles will include two 53-foot semi-trucks connected by technology that automates a process called “platooning,” allowing the trucks to travel closely together at highway speeds.

When the trucks are connected, the lead vehicle controls the speed, and the following vehicle will have precisely matched braking and acceleration to respond to the lead vehicle’s movement. The trucks used in the project are also equipped with radar to detect other vehicles; technology that allows the trucks to monitor and react to the environment in real time. These vehicles will also have drivers behind the wheel at all times.

Ohio’s Lt. Governor John Husted, who heads InnovateOhio, told FoxBusiness the state’s automated vehicle testing builds on already implemented innovations.

“Lane technology, braking technology, all of those are forms of automotive driving systems already out there. We will just gradually continue to evolve that and improve that,” Husted said. “If you can implement a technology that people trust, overtime you can create highway safety which is the goal, these technologies will help make human beings more efficient.”

According to DriveOhio, the state will conduct the automated truck for an entire year before a private company, Ease Logistics, implements the technology in day-to-day operations. At the end of the testing period, Ohio will share the data collected from its project with federal transportation officials.

“Data is a huge piece of this project, we’ll be collecting a tremendous amount of data to try and link how these vehicles perform with what they’re seeing on the road. Ohio University will be involved in packaging that up, and we’ll report it to the federal motor carrier association, and they’ll disseminate that widely throughout the industry,” Choudhary said.

Forward Air, Kodiak Partner on Autonomous Route

By Connor D. Wolf, Transport Topics

Forward Air Corp. has partnered with self-driving trucking company Kodiak Robotics to run one of their busiest freight lanes near continuously with an autonomous truck, the company announced March 16.

Kodiak is hauling freight nonstop, as part of the partnership, six days a week between Dallas and Atlanta. The purpose of their agreement is to not only transport real freight but also for both companies to gain insights for the future development of autonomous technologies.

“They’ve been a really great partner to work with,” Kodiak CEO Don Burnette said. “Obviously, they do a lot of expedited freight and so this type of highly efficient, highly resilient, continuous operation is really valuable to a company like Forward. And so, it really was a no-brainer that this is the type of company that Kodiak would love to work with. And so far, it’s been a very successful relationship.”

Burnette noted that autonomous technology can increase asset utilization above the standard truck driving hours since it can run all day. The partnership will help put that to the test by running the truck all but one day a week along a lane that stretches about 800 miles. A safety driver team is overseeing the autonomous system in order to maintain the schedule while abiding by hours-of-service regulations.

“To serve our customers, we always need to be on the forefront of exploring emerging technologies,” Forward CEO Tom Schmitt said. “Kodiak has earned an outstanding reputation in safe autonomous trucking, and this collaboration allows us to explore potential benefits to our business. While we don’t see autonomous trucks replacing independent contractor capacity, this could potentially be a scalable solution for certain lanes in our network.”

Kodiak has already launched partnerships with several other carriers to haul real freight. But the new partnership, focused on expedited freight along a difficult corridor, provides new opportunities to improve efficiency and reliability. The company also sees it as an opening to illustrate how autonomous trucking can be an efficient way to supplement human-driven fleets.

“Not all carriers, not all private fleets, are the same,” Burnette said. “They don’t operate in the same way. They don’t have the same schedules, they don’t use the same transportation management systems. And so, we want to make sure that we’re working with companies like Forward early on in our development cycle so we can customize and tailor the solution to their needs and understand what challenges they’re facing.”

Burnette added the partnership will help both companies dive deep into these technologies and operations to better explore their capabilities and limitations. He noted that will help them to optimize business operations for an autonomous world.

“That’s not always obvious on the outset,” Burnette said. “You need to really get into the nitty-gritty details. And that’s why having this 24-6 continuous operation contract is so important, because it gives us a realistic, real-life view into the needs and demands of Forward. A lot of AV companies have been doing one-off pilots or short-term programs or a once-a-week operation, and it just doesn’t really give you enough insight into the true inner workings of a company like Forward and moving expedited freight.”

Kodiak and Forward decided on the route after a lane analysis covering the United States. That analysis looked at factors such as what lanes currently are being run round trip, the volume of freight being hauled and hours of service.

“We wanted to demonstrate the resiliency and the reliability of our system running across a challenging multi-hour-of-service freight corridor,” Burnette said. “And it just so happened that Dallas to Atlanta is one of the busiest corridors in the United States from a freight capacity perspective, and it was one that Forward runs regularly with freight in both directions.”

Kodiak began hauling freight on the lane in August. The first step after selecting the lane was to work out the kinks so those operations were being done responsibly and safely. Kodiak hauled more than a hundred loads on the lane during that process.

“That’s over a hundred thousand miles since we began working with them,” Burnette said. “We started talking to them before that. The relationship was building earlier in 2022 and then we went through the exercises to determine what route, how often, what was the frequency, what were all the details and we started moving freight in August.

“So, there was a bit of work that went into the relationship ahead of time, but so far, it’s been a fantastic experience working with them over the last six months.”

National Disability Institute: Accessible Ridehail Would Boost Employment, Federal Revenue

By Michele Lee, Cruise

For the 42.5 million Americans who identify as living with a disability, transportation access is far from a given. For many, it can be prohibitive to workforce participation, access to critical services, and connecting with the people and things they love. For decades, attempts to expand transportation options for those with a disability have remained persistently unreliable and expensive.

We know how this impacts the daily lives of people with disabilities, including my own. As a power wheelchair user, who has the privilege of a job and income, I struggle with even getting around town. I’ve been refused rides, experienced long waits, and constantly face the reality that there are no drivers or vehicles available for me when I need it the most. As a result, I am often stranded and frustrated. It’s an unacceptable status quo that motivates our work at Cruise to build a better, more accessible product for our riders. That’s why we are developing the Origin Mobility –– the world’s first purpose-built, wheelchair-accessible autonomous vehicle. Engaging with the disability community throughout the design and development process helps inform our work –– we have held five studies so far to test the accessible user experience and added a dozen accessibility features to our service last year.

But until now, studies on the cumulative impact of this transportation gap on employment and the U.S. economy, or how a solution like accessible, self-driving technology could play a role in closing it, have been scant.

We’re proud to have partnered with National Disability Institute (NDI) to conduct this first-of-its kind study, released today. According to NDI’s report, an accessible and widely available autonomous ridehail service could have a profound benefit. Such a service would:

  • Bring 9.15 million Americans into the workforce. This includes 4.41 million direct jobs for Americans with a disability, 1.93 million indirect jobs to support this new employment, and 2.81 million induced jobs to support the increased consumer spending from this combined employment.
  • Save the federal government $120.7 billion. In year 0 of the model, projected increased employment would generate $92.96 billion in annual federal tax revenuefrom new personal income tax, social security tax, excise tax, and customs duties, a 1.8% increase in total federal revenue. Additionally, it would reduce federal spending by $27.8 billion, including reductions in spending from SSI and SSDI programs due to increased wages for people with disabilities.
  • Grow U.S. GDP by $867.7 billion. This is a roughly 3.8% increase for the U.S. economy based on 2021 national economic output.The study reached these conclusions by exploring the prevalence of transportation barriers for various types of disabilities, their associated labor force participation rates in the economy, and estimated job creation potential and federal tax savings that accessible Level 4+ autonomous vehicles could generate if made available to these Americans.

This massive opportunity is clear when considering just how high a barrier transportation creates for the disability community: unemployment for people with disabilities was double (10%) the rate for those without (5%) in 2021, and just 21% of Americans with disabilities participated in the labor force, significantly below the 67% for those without disabilities.

As part of their unique study, NDI convened a series of interviews that bring this reality to life:

  • An employer who described transportation as a “nightmare” for their program employing people with intellectual and developmental disabilities: “I feel like I’ve been able to overcome every other challenge in this space except this one.”
  • A small business owner who must rely on friends and family, and often expensive rideshare, hindering the growth of their business: “There are times where I don’t even make a profit because Uber eats it all up.”
  • The all-too-common experience of being refused service: “Now, I was standing there in not the greatest area suddenly alone in the dark, and it was chilly. I had to call two more Ubers before one agreed to take me. I think people forget about the safety element of being stranded. The AVs are going to be a lot more reliable, especially in these sort of late night, early morning situations where safety can be paramount.”
  • The impact on healthcare access: “I’m out on medical leave, but my husband isn’t. Being able to go to appointments by myself would ease a lot of strain on our schedule. So for us, for people with disabilities, it would be a Godsend to have that [AV], you know, where I could go on my own.”
  • And the opportunity for independence: “Aside from giving us all more independence, increasing our quality of life, increasing the amount of change we’ve got at the end of the day because it costs less and lets us have more opportunities, just the concept of being able to independently do anything is huge. It’s certainly an ego-boost.”

As is clear in my work with people from across the disability community, there is never a one-size-fits-all solution to accessibility challenges. And while Cruise works to make our service available to more communities, iterate upon our accessibility features, and engage with users to build our wheelchair-accessible Origin Mobility – AVs simply aren’t everywhere yet. On this, NDI recommends policy to further AV testing and promote adoption, including by raising the cap on AVs that can be manufactured at scale.

The results of this study –– the volume of savings, employment, and growth associated with a more accessible future of mobility –– may come as a surprise to some, but it shouldn’t. It’s a future that’s possible, one that Cruise will continue to work toward, and one our community is counting on.

How Companies Can Pursue ‘Positive-Sum Automation’

By Beth Stackpole, MIT

It’s a familiar narrative: Robots and other forms of automation, while good for driving business efficiencies, are a death knell for the modern workforce.

Yet introducing robots to the workforce could serve as a positive force, delivering benefits to corporations as well as to the workforce and global economy.

“The zero-sum [take] is that companies become more profitable, more productive, even more flexible, but the consequence is that workers get displaced and are less valued,” said Ben Armstrong, a research scientist and executive director at MIT’s Industrial Performance Center, at the 2022 MIT Digital Technology and Strategy Conference.

“We don’t see automation displacing workers — in fact, it’s the opposite,” he said. “Firms that invest in automation equipment like robots or advanced software end up being more profitable and hiring more people.”

There has actually been too little automation, Armstrong contended. Slightly less than 10% of U.S. manufacturers have deployed industrial robots, due to design limitations, workforce challenges, and high integration costs. Slow productivity growth among small and midsize companies over the past few years is one indicator that there might not be enough technology deployed to drive competitive advantage, he said.

In a 2021 report, the International Federation of Robotics indicated that installations of new robots grew only slightly in 2020 worldwide, except in China, which saw a 20% increase. The latest report, however, shows growth in robot installations in all major markets and regions, including a 31% increase in North America and a 24% increase in Europe in 2021.

Achieving “positive-sum automation” starts with understanding why it can be so challenging for companies, as well as creating more flexible tools, Armstrong said.

Barriers to robot adoption

Robot adoption has remained flat for several reasons, said Armstrong, who co-leads the MIT Work of the Future initiative. The biggest inhibitor by far is a lack of digital skills, which are essential for building a workforce that’s able to effectively configure, operate, and repair robots and automation systems. Proficiency in specific programming languages and other skills remain scant in manufacturing companies of all sizes. Only 18.6% of new production-related jobs in manufacturing have a digital skills requirement, Armstrong said, which means few incoming workers are qualified to optimize robots and automation for true business advantage.

Companies are also struggling with robot flexibility. Organizations need to be able to continuously adapt robots and automated systems to changes in the environment. Most robots and automation tools function as black box systems, which makes it next to impossible for the average worker to understand how the tools operate, let alone seamlessly switch between systems to get a specific task done.

“We see positive-sum automation as overcoming these barriers with technology applications that deliver productivity gains,” Armstrong said. “The goal is for a high-throughput, highly repetitive automated system that can also improve flexibility, has an ability to switch between products, and can add innovations and adapt as the business grows and changes.”

A path to productive automation

Armstrong and his colleague Julie Shah, an MIT professor who leads the Interactive Robotics Group of the MIT Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, have developed a three-pronged, multidisciplinary approach aimed at reducing complexity and helping organizations achieve more widespread and productive automation. Their approach addresses the following elements:

Design. Most robots are difficult to program and especially hard to reprogram to worker specifications, which means they often remain unused. Armstrong recounted the struggle of a midsize Ohio-based manufacturer that invested in a collaborative robot so it could add another shift without the pain of finding workers in a tight labor market. After consultants completed the initial configuration and setup, there was no one on staff who could program the robot, which left it sitting idle. Large companies like Tesla have also had well-documented struggles operationalizing robots and implementing so-called lights-out manufacturing. There are reports of robots breaking delicate parts as well as causing other miscues that require human intervention to get operations back on track.

Armstrong said companies should look for robot designs that are more accessible and adaptable. The addition of an intuitive user interface and low-code capabilities will allow workers to adapt robots to the external environment and make changes on their own without having to hire expensive consultants or incurring high switching costs. In this scenario, robots can work in tandem with technicians to assemble equipment — with the robot manipulating heavy assembly while the human performs the dexterous work, for example. The upside is more productive assembly that improves overall job quality.

Integration. Historically, robots and automation system have required specific programming skills and a reliance on external partners for programming and maintenance throughout the life cycle. Taking a bottom-up deployment approach can shift this dynamic and empower internal workers to step in as the experts. Armstrong cited a hospital system that employed robotic process automation software to automate mundane administrative tasks. Instead of having C-level executives decide what processes to automate, the hospital took a bottom-up approach, allowing internal personnel responsible for the tasks to have input and receive training to program the software themselves. The result was administrative teams who were thrilled to avoid the “soul-sucking” work of routine tasks and instead focus on the work they liked most, Armstrong said. Executives, having achieved more efficient operations, were happy as well, he added.

Measurement. To get around the black box system limitations, it’s important to combine investment in automation technology with a comparable investment in employee training. One small manufacturer trained workers and then linked overall machining hours to bonuses. The more streamlined the processes were, the more likely it was that the employee would receive a bonus. This change, coupled with a wage hike to compensate for additional skill requirements, resulted in more productive automation.

Armstrong said that by embracing the concept of flexible automation, organizations will get more mileage from their investments. In scenarios with repetitive, high-volume tasks or labor shortages, robots can serve as a more productive workforce. But automation shines when robots and humans work together as a team to deliver high-quality products to customers or innovate new products and processes.

“With more flexibility, robots and software become tools that help teams become better at tasks,” Armstrong said. “They aren’t just doing the highly predictable tasks — they are also adjusting as the team figures out better ways to solve problems.”

‘AVs Could Drive Road Deaths to Zero’: Governors Highway Safety Association Leaders Ride With Waymo

By Let’s Talk Autonomous Driving,

Across every US state and territory, the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA) serves as a valuable source of insights and advocacy to empower communities and drive road deaths to zero.

The nation’s road fatalities remain at unprecedented levels and exceeded 40,000 in 2021 for the first time since 2007., and GHSA was one of the first organizations to point out a spiraling epidemic of speeding and unsafe driving during the pandemic. GHSA is working to assess and reduce the largest and most widespread causes of traffic crashes: the human choices to drive drunk, not wear seatbelts, and speed.

GHSA Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Adkins, who has been with GHSA for 22 years, says he would love to see the nation achieve zero traffic deaths and put his nonprofit out of business.

“This has been going on for too long,” Adkins says. “Many of our friends and neighbors are losing their lives in traffic crashes and it’s completely preventable.”

To raise awareness, GHSA is partnering with Waymo to build acceptance and awareness about all potential road safety solutions, including autonomous driving, that could save lives.

Autonomous driving technology like Waymo’s can be designed to follow road rules like speed limits, stay constantly vigilant, and identify and anticipate what other road users may do to make the safest driving decision.

“We’re really excited about autonomous and semi-autonomous technology because it will literally prevent crashes,” Adkins says.

Russ Martin, senior director of policy and government relations at GHSA, says the partnership with Waymo is part of a push to work across industries, fields, and practice areas to consider the entire road system and leverage every tool and resource available to eliminate road deaths.

“Autonomous vehicle technology promises to save lives because it can remove a lot of human error, a lot of human risk out of the driving equation,” Martin says. “The more that we can get this technology on different kinds of vehicles, hopefully the more kinds of crashes that we can prevent.”

Martin and Adkins recently rode in a Waymo One autonomously driven vehicle and a Waymo Via autonomously driven semi-truck.

“You can tell that the technology’s been incrementally improved over time,” shares Martin, who last took a ride in an autonomous vehicle nearly a decade prior.

For Adkins, it was his first time riding in an autonomously driven vehicle and truck.

“After I got over the excitement of being in the vehicle, I was thinking about the perspective of some of the other vehicles on the road and how predictable the Waymo driver is,” Adkins shares. “As another driver on the road, that predictability keeps us all safe.”

In addition to enhancing road safety, Adkins says, the technology could benefit those who cannot drive, such as those who are blind.

“Too many people are excluded because they can’t drive somewhere, and this is going to be one of those tools that’s going to make people’s lives better,” Adkins says.

Adkins says he believes autonomous driving technology even could have benefited his own mother, who had to move into a retirement home. Adkins believes she could have stayed independent and in her own home longer if she had had the option of calling an autonomous ride when she could no longer drive.

“Transportation is freedom, whether it’s bicycling, walking, driving a car, transportation’s freedom,” Adkins emphasizes. “And so we’re excited about this from a safety standpoint, from a mobility standpoint and just general quality of life.”

Martin shares that he enjoyed speaking to the Waymo Via autonomous truck operator – a veteran truck driver – accompanying the truck as it drove.

“He spoke about how the truck’s sensor technology was able to pick up things at night, that he as the operator just didn’t see because it was beyond the headlines,” Martin recalls. “That kind of safety value seems very important.

Martin says he hopes individual people will feel empowered to do something about road safety so that it is addressed from every possible angle.

“Whether it’s buckling up on every trip, controlling your speed, putting your phone down in the car, and creating a stronger safety culture, everyday people can do that,” Martin says.

Adkins says the work to bring road fatalities is within reach, provided strategies account for all available tools, including autonomous driving technology.

“Whether we’re drivers, whether we’re riding a bike, whether we’re walking, it impacts everyone, but it does impact people of color disproportionately for a host of reasons,” Adkins says. “And so we really have to do better. This is an outrage and it’s completely preventable.”

Adkins underscores that the GHSA-Waymo partnership represents a model for addressing road safety across spheres.

“If we’re truly going to eliminate traffic deaths, it’s not going to be solely because of the Governors Highway Safety Association, or solely because of Waymo,” Adkins says. “We have to work together.”

How Technology Is Driving The Transportation Industry Toward A Sustainable Future

By Daragh Mahon, Forbes

Every industry contributes to the impact of greenhouse gas emissions, and trucking is no exception. For decades, we have worked to improve sustainability by increasing fuel efficiency and reducing carbon impact.

Fortunately, the world has reached a technical maturity where we can—and must—start taking steps toward a more sustainable future. Ideas that have been around for years, such as alternative fuels and autonomous vehicles, are now within reach. If we act fast enough and invest in the necessary resources, the transportation industry can harness technology in never-before-seen ways.

Logistics And Maintenance

Technology is driving the most sustainable impact through supply chain optimization. For example, empty miles, or when a truck drives with no freight, is an issue the transportation and logistics industry has been improving upon for years. Now, developments in machine learning and AI represent an opportunity to make even larger reductions. Continued improvements to route optimization, including incorporating real-time data for weather and accidents, help reduce idle time and increase route efficiency.

Maintenance efficiency is another area where technology is making an impact. Predictive maintenance systems use IoT devices and onboard sensors to monitor vehicle equipment and alert drivers when there is a potential mechanical problem or the truck is due for routine maintenance. This keeps vehicles operating at peak fuel efficiency and reduces the likelihood of a roadside breakdown, saving the additional emissions from towing.

Alternative Fuels

Vehicle emissions have improved tremendously over the past few decades, especially diesel. Exhaust technology and fuel-refining processes mean fossil fuels are burning cleaner than ever. But as usage only continues to grow, it’s clear that we must diversify our fuel sources to meet future demand.

The idea of alternative fuels has been around for decades, but now it’s time to act and get honest about the viability of each. Transportation companies should have conversations with startups, emerging brands and partner brands to help find viable, alternative solutions that support the trucking ecosystem.

Though we feel that a long-term solution has not yet been identified, there are a few fuel alternatives we have been keeping a close eye on as they develop—electricity, hydrogen and natural gas.

Electric vehicles (EVs) run on a renewable resource and produce no tailpipe emissions; however, this is one energy source that we need to get real about. For trucks alone, three unique challenges need to be solved.

  • The U.S. needs the electrical grid to deliver or produce the electricity required to support an EV-driven nation. An American Transportation Research Institute study finds that the national demand for an all-EV U.S. vehicle fleet would require over 40% of the power currently generated.
  • Currently, there is no battery that can withstand long, over-the-road distances and has a weight that can work on trucks and trailers. Most importantly, the millions of tons of raw materials needed to produce these batteries require extraction from the ground. The environmental damage is not fully understood, but we know that mining and processing these materials produces considerable CO2 and causes pollution issues. Coupled with other problems like water usage and labor exploitation, we should rethink if this is a viable alternative.
  • The charging infrastructure is problematic—what will the cost be to create it and for the trucker to use it? Where do we add charging stations? How will we develop long-term parking to accommodate 8–12 hours of charging?

Hydrogen is a flexible fuel that can be used in both fuel-cell technology and internal combustion engines. Currently, hydrogen engines burn more energy than they create, making them unviable for implementation across a large fleet. Evidence suggests that this can and will change, but it’s far from being a realistic alternative.

Natural gas is an abundant resource that burns cleaner than gas and is more affordable. It is a viable option to reduce emissions as more infrastructure supports the country’s transportation needs. However, testing and resources are required to make this attainable for the industry.

These issues do not mean a future powered by alternative fuels is impossible. Their use has been prominent in progressing toward carbon reduction goals; however, we need to recognize the issue’s complexity to plan for our energy future appropriately. Transportation companies are responsible for testing and piloting new options, as we have a front seat to help drive innovation.

Autonomous Vehicles

Beyond alternative fuels and supply chain optimization, autonomous vehicles (AVs) could support the industry’s impact on climate change. Advanced AI models can calculate operations for maximum efficiency and optimize routes continuously using real-time navigation data, keeping fuel consumption at the lowest levels.

From a technical perspective, AVs are entirely possible. However, perception issues around safety and liability need to be addressed before wide-scale adoption can occur.

Realistically, we are likely looking at a hybrid transportation model with a mix of human and machine drivers. Features like breaking assist and parking assistance, known as advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS), are already used in vehicles today. We will continue to build upon these types of systems, slowly shifting responsibility over to the computer while keeping human drivers present to monitor and ensure all technology is working as intended.

Further down the line, we could have driverless vehicles in limited circumstances. Long-haul routes could become autonomous, traveling between a national network of transportation hubs built outside large population areas. There, loads could be transferred to human drivers for shorter routes that require more skillful driving. A model like this would allow drivers to return home most nights while utilizing the carbon-reducing efforts of autonomous vehicles for the long haul.

Investors In Change And Industry-Wide Buy-In

The industry is at a turning point. We can see a sustainable future on the horizon, but there is still work to do. In the meantime, companies can implement existing technologies that help optimize their operations and maintain equipment efficiency. Future tech requires the investment of industry leaders to fast-track innovation and reduce the cost of industry-wide adoption.

Cruise Senior Public Affairs Manager Michele Lee Talks Autonomous Cars And New Accessibility Council In Interview

By Steven Aquino, Forbes

In a blog post published on Friday, autonomous car maker Cruise announced the formation of a so-called Cruise Accessibility Council. The San Francisco-based and General Motors-backed company wrote the Accessibility Council is yet another step forward in its steadfast commitment to making the future of transport “more accessible, equitable, and inclusive” to everyone, regardless of ability level.

Cruise describes the Accessibility Council as “a cross-disability group of leaders and advocates who will provide external, independent input on Cruise’s product, programs, and approach to accessibility.” Feedback from the group will be instrumental in “[continuing] to develop all our services.” The Accessibility Council is comprised of seventeen people representing various disability organizations, including the National Federation of the Blind, the United Spinal Association, and the National Association of the Deaf. The Council members, Cruise said, “bring a wide range of disciplines and lived experiences to the table, with the mission of realizing a more accessible transportation future.”

“Self-driving technology has the potential to help people overcome numerous mobility challenges. But that reality cannot be achieved in a vacuum—it has to be done with direct input from people with disabilities,” wrote Michele Lee, who leads accessibility efforts at Cruise, in their announcement posted to its website. “I came to Cruise as an advocate within the disability community myself, and the [popular in the community] refrain ‘nothing about us, without us’ rings true.”

Lee, who lives in Chicago, has played an integral role in seeing Cruise’s Council go from conception to fruition. She became disabled herself in a car accident, suffering neck and spinal cord injuries. An electric wheelchair user for close to two decades, Lee’s injuries meant she was unable to drive again so accessible transportation is a topic very close to her heart. So close, in fact, she serves on the board of the Chicago Transit Authority. Everybody wants to get around and go places, but as a wheelchair user, Lee finds relying on public transit and ride-share problematic because they’re not consistently accommodating to disabled people.

Enter Cruise and their autonomous driving technologies.

“I’ve been an advocate for people with disabilities ever since becoming a member of this community and just fighting for access to just everything,” Lee said to me earlier this week in an exclusive interview via videoconference ahead of today’s news. “It’s been a journey, and transportation has been a real focus for me.”

Lee works on Cruise’s public affairs team. She described her primary responsibility is to “engage with disability advocates and advocacy groups and the disability community at large to understand the needs of the population. Obviously, disability is very nuanced and it’s very diverse.” In terms of a car’s functionality, Lee is in the trenches working with teammates to ensure Cruise’s vehicles embody the company’s institutional beliefs on accessibility and inclusion.

The advent of the Accessibility Council is representative of Cruise’s ethos around disability inclusion, according to Lee. The company has a long history of partnerships with the disability community, and the Accessibility Council stands on the shoulders on those bonds. Lee is especially proud of, and excited for, the Accessibility Council because it’s an earnest attempt at not merely improving the literal accessibility of Cruise’s products—it’s a conduit to constant conversation.

“We’ve long engaged, Cruise as a whole, with a lot of different disability advocacy groups,” Lee said. “We’re really trying to formalize these relationships and bring everyone into a room and make it a little bit more diverse in terms of all the disabilities together having a voice [and] learning from each other.”

Beyond the broader societal representation angle, Lee explained, somewhat jokingly, another reason for creating the Council is sheer pragmatism. She talks to people all the time. “I just thought it would be a way to make it easier,” she said. “If we’re meeting quarterly, then I can save on the [amount] of meetings.”

As for the future, Lee keenly shared Cruise has even bigger ambition that, of course, is mindful of inclusivity and empathy. She told me the company is currently developing a “purpose-built vehicle from the ground up to be wheelchair accessible,” which she added is a first of its kind. The minivan-like vehicle is known as the Origin Mobility. The project is being worked on in collaboration with GM, with Lee telling me the car’s safety standards will be “amazing.” Cruise is doing user testing in the Bay Area, and maintains a database of people with accessibility needs. “We’re always trying to expand and get new folks to come and test our products, including the wheelchair accessible vehicle,” Lee said.

The Origin Mobility, combined with Cruise’s autonomous driving technology, is quite representative of what accessible transport can be like for disabled people in the future. Lee calls self-driving tech a “game-changer” as an assistive technology because of what it allows for people who are ostensibly immobile due to their disability. To wit, Lee acknowledged the fact not everyone leaves near a bus stop or train stop, let alone have a driver’s license. Ergo, the rise of autonomous driving means a vehicle like Cruise’s will “reliably come get you,” Lee said to me.

Ultimately, fully autonomous vehicles will enable a newfound freedom for the disability community. A person like Lee can go anywhere, at any time, without being at the mercy of public transit’s machinations or the goodwill of other people.

The bottom line has no hyperbole: self-driving cars is accessibility at its zenith.

“It’s going to enable independence,“ Lee said. “It’s going to enable freedom to move about as you want and live your life. I am so excited for the day that Origin Mobility is on the streets. I dream of it honestly—I have to always rely on somebody to drive me, or a bus driver, a train conductor, Uber driver, Lyft driver, or taxi driver. [With autonomous cars], I’m not always relying on someone. I want to want to go places and I want to do things. I know I’m not alone in that. People with disabilities want to live life. This is going to really be a game-changer.”

Cruise is actively soliciting feedback on its efforts with the Accessibility Council and the Origin Mobility. The company has an open call for interested parties to join its accessibility research studies, which Cruise says is a paid opportunity.