Science fiction once imagined a world with self-driving cars and robot-powered assembly lines. While robots have yet to replace humans entirely, automation has far-reaching impacts on business, so it’s worth exploring what this might mean for local hiring patterns, wages and safety.
Here’s a look at some of the industries where automation is making an impact or could in the future.
Automation in Transportation
As we’ve previously covered, autonomous vehicles are a hot topic, especially with the recent fatality involving one of Uber’s driverless cars. But driverless passenger cars are just one example of automation in transportation. Wired reports that late last year Tesla unveiled a fully electric semi-truck equipped with semiautonomous technology and Supply Chain Dive looks at how these vehicles could impact the future of trucking.
Meanwhile, CNET asserts that self-driving buses and shuttles would improve public transportation and reduce noise pollution. The U.S. Department of Transportation announced a new federal committee on transportation last year, so keep an eye on new developments in your area.
Automation in Retail
While driverless cars still feel far-fetched to some, automation is having a real impact on present-day retail, from automated checkout kiosks in stores to chatbots on your favorite retail website to automation in fulfillment warehouses. Cornerstone Capital Group released a research report last year on how this impacts workers. But it’s not all bad news for workers; in fact, MIT’s Technology Review reports that automation may be creating jobs in retail.
Remember that automation isn’t just doing the work of store cashiers or warehouse workers. According to Consumer Reports, bots (short for software robots) were snatching up in-demand toys last Christmas that us mere mortal consumers had to purchase them through secondary markets at a steep markup. Do online retailers in your neck of the woods have any ways to combat these Grinch bots?
Automation in Food
Automation could eventually impact every stage of our food system–from seed to grocery store shelf to dining room table. According to Mashable, the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics is using robotic farming to trim branches, collect data and harvest fruit.
Earlier this year, Amazon opened a robot-run grocery store in Seattle, using cameras and sensors to track purchases and bill customers. The Atlantic predicts that robots will also transform fast food, freeing up human workers to interact with customers rather than flipping burgers or scrubbing pots.
- Expertise Finder lists 34 professors in the US and Canada with expertise in various aspects of automation, so this could help you identify independent experts in your area.
- Also consider trade groups in this space, among them the International Society of Automation, the Automation Association (focused on manufacturing) and the Association for Advancing Automation.