AI and The Future of Transportation – Will you be the driver or be run over?

BEI Global > Logistics > AI and The Future of Transportation – Will you be the driver or be run over?

Who knew that Robert Downey Jr. is a logistics fan?  Maybe that stint as Ironman gave him a different perspective on technology.

Recently, Daniel Stanton shared a video link about AI on LinkedIn.  I loved this video – although it is a bit long – about 40 minutes.  It is well produced, and tells a wonderful story of how AI is beginning to impact our supply chain.  It starts with a brief history of innovation, and goes on to show specific examples of AI in supply chain applications. In the coming years, technology and AI will impact many areas of transportation and supply chain: Self-driving trucks, port operations, robotics, pizza delivery and more.

Let’s take a moment to think about some of the themes that come from the video, here are my thoughts…

Jobs & Safety

The work being done by robots makes the workplace safer and more efficient.  The port operations example showed the automated units in action.  The port now has more maintenance people than they have ever had.  The truck driver example showed how the driver and the engineer have a symbiotic relationship in trying to figure out this extremely complex activity or driving a tractor trailer.  The end result is that the jobs will look different, but there is a lot of work to be done.  What some people do not realize is that we do not have enough workers TODAY to fill all the current job openings.  We certainly do not have workers with the right skills for the jobs that will be created in this new economic era.  This highlights the need for skill training and smart transitions.

Supply Chain

I loved the Pizza example.  The video showed an interview with the CIO of a pizza chain.  He talked about how surprised he was to be recruited by a pizza company.  The problem the pizza company is trying to solve is food waste.  The idea is to use AI to predict pizza ordering in advance – then deliver hot, fresh, tasty pizza – economically – to customers with dramatically less food waste. The technology deployed uses AI to learn and predict order patterns.  This information is used to have the right amount of food available for timely delivery and minimal waste.  It made me want to open a Columbus, OH franchise.


The engineers showed examples of robots learning how to do simple tasks, and how difficult that really is.  What I found interesting was the human / robot interaction to move a table.  It was shockingly difficult to train the robot.

In one example of Pizza making, each robot was named.  As it happens, this is a common feature of human / robot interactions.  For example, when people in warehouse applications have robots that work in the same environment, the robots are usually given names.  Sometimes human employees can be heard talking to the robots – “good morning, did you sleep last night?” Perhaps this reflects on our natural desire to have positive relationships with our co-workers.  Maybe it is more than that. Either way, it is a great example of how we humans can quickly become comfortable with robot as assistants.


Technology is all around us.  We tend to think of technology as ‘that stuff in the cloud’ all bits and bytes.  Few people think of pen and pencil as technology.  Is a farmer’s plow technology?  What about a shovel?  All of these are examples of technology – tools that make work easier in some way.  The pen and paper are the world’s oldest computer which allowed the computations and thoughts of the human brain to be transmitted and shared with other humans.  The plow and shovel changed how we could prepare the soil efficiently as our society transitioned from hunter gatherers to farmers.  AI is poised to help us become vastly more efficient at work and home and take the next evolutionary leap.

Evolution vs. Revolution

All of these examples demonstrate that human-kind is constantly evolving.  Occasionally there is an abrupt change that becomes revolutionary.  When this change is too rapid, it disrupts societal norms and people have to adapt quickly.  The lack of an ability to quickly adapt can create a level of discomfort that can disenfranchise parts of society.   Today we refer to ‘revolutionary change’ as ‘disruptive technology’.  If it is too rapid or disruptive, even positive change can cause economic recessions or depressions.

So What Next?

Deal with it.  Change is coming.  Technology has been changing our world for as long as humans have been on the earth.  From simple to complex, technology has been – and will be – the driver of change for many millennia to come.  Are you on board, or will you bury your head?  Robert Downey Jr. may not become a supply chain professional, but his video helps us to see how AI and technology are helping human kind in the next decade.

Ironman knows where he stands.   How about you?  Will you be part of humankind’s next evolution, or be run over by a revolution?

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