Free Enterprise

Automated Lawnmowers are Just the Beginning!

When we hear the term “autonomous vehicle,” many of us picture sitting in a self-driving car that drives us around town (which is already being done in states like Arizona and California). But what about the other possible uses of autonomous vehicles, like creating efficiencies for business owners and scientific discovery?

Here are three recent examples.

  1. Walmart has begun to roll out autonomous forklifts in one of its distribution centers. This allows the loading dock to be fully automated. As a result, those employees can now focus on other tasks. Furthermore, because they no longer need to do this grueling work, these employees have increased their output by upwards of three times.
  2. FireFly Automatix right, here in Utah, is now selling autonomous lawn mowers for sod farms and golf courses. These harvesters take what used to be a grueling, four-man operation and instead make it a far more pleasant work day that only requires one worker.
  3. Unmanned, autonomous submarines are not only being used for Antarctic explorations, but now will even be utilized by the Australian Navy. These submarines reduce the risk to scientists and members of the Navy who used to perform these dangerous tasks themselves. 

Of course, you may be thinking, “But didn’t this automation lead to the elimination of good paying jobs?” It’s a fair question, but it makes a lot of assumptions.

This question assumes that there were enough people interested in doing the work to begin with. Also consider that many of these jobs are physically demanding or even dangerous, making it difficult for anyone to do it long-term. Finally, it doesn’t account for how menial some of these jobs are. Many of these workers might rather spend their time and energy doing something more fulfilling.

Innovation, job creation, and job destruction are not new phenomena, as they have been going on for centuries. To see job elimination as a default net negative is to fail to consider the positive effect of increasing human progress. At the same time, organizations like Libertas Institute will continue studying ways to mitigate the perceived negative effects on individuals as new autonomous and AI technologies are rolled out into the marketplace. Stay tuned for further policy proposals over the summer.