Ford is looking to put a lot of people out of work with automated delivery trucks

No need to tip the robot.
No need to tip the robot.
Image: Ford
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Ford, which jumpstarted the mass availability of gasoline-powered cars a century ago, is now envisioning a world without drivers.

The company this week unveiled a concept for electric, automated delivery vans, part of a new product it calls Autolivery. The vehicles are focused on package delivery in congested urban centers. “It’s all about making life in the city easier,” said Euishik Bang, one of the Shanghai-based Autolivery designers.

Ford’s unveiling at the World Mobile Congress in Barcelona also included a concept for delivery drones that could work hand-in-hand with the trucks, to get parcels to areas where it’s difficult to park or on the high floors of office towers (not a dramatic start to an office pizza party at all). It’s a concept that’s already being tested by delivery giants like Amazon and UPS.

And that might mean a lot fewer jobs, too. A 2015 estimate from the US Bureau of Labor Statistics suggests that around 827,000 people in the US alone are employed as truck or delivery drivers, with a mean annual salary of $34,080.

Ford’s is still only a concept, not a physical model, so delivery-van drivers may not need to find a new job just yet. But Ford hasn’t been shy about its ambitions for driverless vehicles. Last month, it said it would invest $1 billion over five years in Argo AI to work with Ford’s self-driving car team.

Ford has said it plans to have a fleet of autonomous vehicles on the streets in 2021.