Would Robot Drivers Check Facebook While Driving?

Yesterday, ABC News reported that the truck driver involved in a fatal crash in Arizona last May was looking at photos of scantily clad women on Facebook at the time of the crash. You can watch the video below captured by the dashboard camera.

World News Videos | ABC World News

The ABC News report highlights two other cases of distracted drivers caught on camera, including a school bus driver who was texting while driving.

I wrote about the “distracted driver” problem earlier this year, and how automakers are embedding collision warning and emergency brake systems in their new cars and trucks (see Beware, Driverless Cars are Everywhere!). In my opinion, these technologies are just a step toward an inevitable future: trucks driven by robots (or, to use a more accurate term, self-driving trucks).

Why is it inevitable? Two main reasons. First, the driver shortage issue is bound to get worse in the years ahead, not better. And second, as much as we might hate to admit it, computers are better drivers than humans.

In a WIRED magazine article published last December, Better Than Human: Why Robots Will — And Must — Take Our Jobs, Kevin Kelly writes the following:

In the coming years our relationships with robots will become ever more complex. But already a recurring pattern is emerging. No matter what your current job or your salary, you will progress through these Seven Stages of Robot Replacement, again and again:

1. A robot/computer cannot possibly do the tasks I do


2. OK, it can do a lot of them, but it can’t do everything I do.


3. OK, it can do everything I do, except it needs me when it breaks down, which is often.


4. OK, it operates flawlessly on routine stuff, but I need to train it for new tasks.


5. OK, it can have my old boring job, because it’s obvious that was not a job that humans were meant to do.


6. Wow, now that robots are doing my old job, my new job is much more fun and pays more!


7. I am so glad a robot/computer cannot possibly do what I do now.

I believe truck drivers are currently at Stage 2. And industry analysts like me are at Stage 1. What stage are you at? And are we all ready for the next one?