There seem to be no limits on where technology can take human beings. The question of what’s best is a philosophical one. In reality, technology is taking over more and more places. We often don’t see it, and that’s why it will take many of us as a surprise.
Australia is home to major mining operations that employ 25,000 people. Yet the superstar of the industry isn’t the miner. It is the giant self-driving trucks and self-driving trains that are moving the ore. The action isn’t conducted on the ground but rather in a facility many kilometres away. According to the Sydney Morning Herald, the operation is only five years away from becoming fully automated.
The public hears much about automated cars, but there are few on the streets yet. According to Bloomberg News, there have been many promises broken when it comes to true automation. Tesla and General Motors both promised driverless fleets as early as 2021, but they have both backed off on that.
Still, every new vehicle is offering automation that was unheard of only a decade ago. More importantly, today’s driverless cars are being tested in many ways in many locations. They are hiding in plain sight, and it could be as little as two years before they go mainstream. All the delays experienced so far will be forgotten as the automation surges and takes over the industry.
Just as that push has been slow, the push toward electric cars has also seemed slow. Car companies have announced targets that they haven’t met. Electric vehicles have emerged only to fail. Yet luxury makers and other brands are expanding their electric offerings at a rapid rate. One needs only look at the new Hummer, which will be available as a truck from GM next year. This old nameplate has been assigned to an all-electric Superduty truck that can produce 1000 horsepower.
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In the construction industry, it’s hard to imagine the number of robots that might be needed to build complex structures. Yet even the building industry is not waiting for the day when that’s possible. More and more, building components are being designed and constructed by robots in factory settings. Entire frameworks for large buildings can be made and shipped to jobsites.
Some of this modular construction is the result of 3-D printing. It’s not Lego-like pieces but rather features that are made of complex metal or composites to the exacting specifications of a particular project. The digitization of models is expected to lead to more onsite robotization. This is much more difficult, on its face, than Australia’s automated trucks which simply follow a route. However, engineers are already employed to find ways to manage complicated construction tasks.
In all of this, there is a natural concern for how automation will affect the environment. There are only so many industrial crane mats that one can lay down to protect the ground. After a certain point, the destruction could become overwhelming. On the other hand, advanced automation could be used in the factory, construction site, and mine to make sure that environment regulations are met and even exceeded.
Many may be concerned about losing their jobs to robots. However, all of this automation, digitization, and data will have to be managed. That’s where business comes in. Start-ups that are positioning themselves as experts in mechatronics, robotics, artificial intelligence, communication or anything related are bound to do well in the changing economy.
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