Job Fears Prompt Teamsters to Take on Self-Driving Trucks; Russia Touts AI Missiles

In the News
August 18, 2017

Is the world ready for an arms race including intelligent missiles? Job fears have led to truck drivers, a significant portion of the U.S. workforce, to start pushing back against driverless vehicles. And the country with the highest robot density, or number of robots per 10,000 human workers, uses tax policy to slow its pace of industrial automation.

Robotics Business Review has teamed up with me to bring you this roundup of noteworthy developments in global robotics, unmanned systems, and artificial intelligence. Are you ready to be updated?

Russia turns to AI for new missiles

Last month, the chief executive of Tactical Missiles Corp. said that the Russian weapons manufacturer is working on a missile that uses AI. According to CEO Boris Obnosov, they were inspired by the U.S. strike on Syria in April in which missiles were redirected after being launched.

The U.S. missiles were an updated version of 1991 hardware, however, begging the question of whether Russia is purposefully underplaying what it expects from these missiles. If so, it’s not alone. Last year, China unveiled plans to integrate AI into future cruise missiles, enabling these missiles to be able to conduct more “tasks” once they are launched.

Russia and China’s push to develop AI-guided missiles isn’t only a strategy to compete with the U.S. It reflects militaries’ growing dependence on using robotics and AI as part of their competitive posturing.

At the same time, these initiatives could soon lead to more autonomous weapons, which increases the need for policies that guide or restrict such warfare. Autonomous tanks and drones are one thing. Longer-range autonomous missiles are something else entirely.

Nidec ramps up Japan’s robotic drive

Nidec Corp., which produces many of the motors found in hard disks and other electronics hardware, plans to begin producing industrial robots. The Kyoto, Japan-based company said it will test its robots in its own factories to help it meet a goal of having no overtime for human workers by 2020. Nidec also plans to build systems including AI.

This is just one example of what many companies around the world are doing. They’re developing their own robots in-house, testing them in their own factories, and then offering them to the world. And this should jolt all industrial automation suppliers, as their business models could be upended.

At the same time, more companies developing and deploying robotics could lead to more job fears in manufacturing, if more employment for engineers. Japan has long been a leader in robotics, so businesses and governments should watch if Nidec’s initiative is part of a larger industry shift.

Unions take aim at self-driving vehicles

The Teamsters Union, which has more than 1.3 million members between the U.S. and Canada, has lobbied policy makers in the U.S. to exempt commercial trucks from new laws regarding self-driving trucks. The legislation would raise the cap on how many vehicles would be allowed to omit “common features” such as steering wheels.

If successful, the bill would...

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