Will we see a day when nobody (or, more accurately, no body) is behind the wheel of a United States Postal Service delivery truck?
It may not be as far-fetched as you think.
In a recent blog post, the United States Postal Service Inspector General’s office speculated on the future of driverless vehicles and whether the agency may be able to take advantage of that sci-fi-esque proposition.
“Analysts expect autonomous vehicle technology to hit the roads big time in the next few years, which could signal major changes for the shipping and transportation industries and supply chains,” according to the post titled “No Driver Needed?”
“Some analysts believe that in the future, customers could rent shared autonomous vehicles and pre-program destinations for daily deliveries. Such a service would allow small businesses to offer a delivery service without having to maintain a fleet of delivery vehicles.”
On the heels of a Brookings Institution report that suggested the United States Postal Service should be broken up into two entities and other doom-and-gloom news about the agency, many postal workers are wondering about the future of their employer — and unquestionably about their careers in light of all these technological changes and other sound-offs.
No doubt technology has been a blessing and a curse to the agency. Email decimated mail volume, while e-commerce storefronts have become an unexpected and highly generous revenue source for the postal service.
It’s hard to say today what kind of impact driverless vehicles could have on the agency and the shipping industry as a whole. But there is little doubt that technology will continue to exert its influence and cause a bit, or a lot, of upheaval to traditional industries like the postal service.
What Uber did to the taxi industry is a case study of what may happen to the postal service if they are embrace or reject technological changes.
The question is though, how will all of this from driverless vehicles to other forms of automation affect rank-and-file postal service workers? Likely some jobs will be lost and other opportunities will arise. Though, it is interesting that the agency’s own inspector general’s office is heralding a form of automation that, yes, could help the financially struggling agency, but one that could also hurt rank-and-file workers, depending on if that automation makes certain jobs obsolete, especially at mail processing centers.
At the end of the day, what ultimately happens remains to be seen. We just urge you to stay tuned to these updates to remain in the loop about changes to the workforce. Driverless delivery trucks may be a thing of the future — not today, not tomorrow, maybe a decade off. But when it comes to our livelihood, all we can do is think about how the future will affect us.
We have to anticipate all outcomes, many of which are unknown to us until management says that’s the way things will be done from now on.
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