The Great Panic of 2020, aka pandemic, has driven robot automation to new levels because of worker shortages. What some are saying were “nightmarish jobs”, were jobs nonetheless and provided a living for now-displaced workers. With increasing use of robots, Universal Basic Income is seen as the only way to assuage the new class of unemployables. ⁃ Technocracy News & Trends Editor Patrick Wood
In a truck yard the size of a football field several miles north of Denver, a fleet of robotic trucks ferry semi-trailers between assigned spots and warehouse doors for 16 hours each day. A few humans keep watch.
Zach Moss is a 37-year-old former truck driver who now spends much of his 8-hour shift at a desk inside a nearby warehouse. There, he queues up moves and watches yard activity on a computer screen as the 80,000 lb. robots outside do his former job.
If something seems off, Moss hits a kill switch. Otherwise, he works on administrative tasks, talks to his human coworkers or grabs a snack.
“It’s a step up from being on the road all the time,” Moss said. “It kind of blows my mind that we’re going in this direction.”
Moss works as a test technician for Outrider. It’s a Golden-based robotics developer whose mission is to automate the bustling truck yards outside of tens of thousands of distribution warehouses across the world, where most everyday goods are boxed and shipped to customers.
Outrider lauds its main test site in Brighton as one of the most automated in the country. Analysts say it’s a glimpse of what future shipping and freight yards will look like — a place where more robots than humans work, rendering people nearly obsolete.
Traditional human-run yards are dangerous and inefficient, said Andrew Smith, Outrider’s founder and CEO. Over-the-road truckers can waste hours dropping off and picking up trailers in the busy hubs, he said.
“These yards are one of the many bottlenecks in our current supply chain,” Smith said. “As our economy becomes more knowledge and service oriented, this is just one of those dull, dirty and dangerous jobs that we’ll see the economy shifting away from.”
Smith founded the company in 2017. His team spent three years designing and testing the technology behind the driverless trucks, which are electric and can run for almost an entire day on one charge.
It works like this: Human over-the-road truckers drop off semitrailers containing anything from food to electronics to toilet paper at a warehouse yard. Then, an Outrider robotic truck takes over.