From San Diego Union Tribune’s Gary Robbins: Thirty of the world’s top scientists are scheduled to meet at UC San Diego in February to discuss the toughest challenges and change in robotics and automation, including how to make driverless cars safe for a mass audience.
The experts are being brought together by Henrik Christensen, the prominent Georgia Tech engineer who was hired in July to run UC San Diego’s young Contextual Robotics Institute.
Christensen said at the time, “I want to build a research institute that, ideally, will be in the top five in the world five years from now. Why not see if we can make San Diego ‘Robot Valley.’”
The February forum is being eyed as a step toward raising the university’s visibility in robotics, a field defined by grand advances and embarrassing setbacks. Christensen sat down with The San Diego Union-Tribune this week to talk about what’s likely to happen in the near term. The following is an edited version of that conversation:
Q: Automation and robotics are advancing quickly. What impact will this have on employment in the United States?
A: We see two trends. We will use robots and automation to bring manufacturing jobs back from overseas, primarily from Southeast Asia. At the same time, we will see some jobs get displaced by automation. There will be fully automated, driverless transportation in this country by 2020, and that will eliminate some jobs now held by workers like truck drivers and taxi drivers.
Q: Will there be a net increase or decrease in jobs?
A: To be honest with you, we don’t know. There was a recent study on this by the National Academies, but there wasn’t enough good data to make it clear what the outcome will be. We do see a lot of change occurring. Amazon is printing books at its local distribution centers, then sending them on to customers. They print the book, put a cover on it, and off it goes. That cuts down on transportation jobs and costs.