I am not at all sure that self-driving cars are on the edge of reality. But I think self-driving long-haul trucks might well be just a few years away. Not much happens out on the Interstate, and the biggest danger is the driver falling asleep. That seems to me like a challenge computers can handle pretty easily.
Which means that within a decade self-driving trucks may put most of the 1.5 million long-haul truckers in the country out of work. Most of these truckers are drawn from the same demographic that has suffered the biggest decline in status over the past fifty years, men from rural areas and small towns.
Should we let that happen?
If we care about inequality, why should we let a million jobs disappear so the owners of Google and the trucking firms can get richer? If we care about ordinary people doing ordinary jobs, why would we let technology take the livelihoods of a million of them? What would we be gaining that would be worth so much?
We absolutely could do this; this is not a case in which other countries could take over the work, or where the technology would creep in no matter what we do. It would not be difficult to enforce a law requiring a human driver in every large truck.
But should we? And if not, why not?