Tesla Isn’t Just a Car Industry Disruptor, Here is What Else it Disrupts
Displaced workers in the automobile industry
Take a look at a picture of a Tesla S production line. Robbie the Robot would feel completely at home here. There are still humans on the line doing high content work that requires thinking. This is not your great grandfather’s assembly line. Henry Ford didn’t create the $5 workday, (very high salary for that day), out of the goodness of his heart. He did it because the work was so deadening, that he had to pay high to get his workers to stop quitting him so quickly, causing him very high training and absenteeism costs.
Lest you cast aspersions on Tesla for causing worker displacement, look at the auto industry generally. In 1965 11,114,000 cars were produced. In 2014, 11,661,000 cars were produced . One and a half million workers in the UAW in the ’60’s have declined to 339,000 in 2014. Globalization, transplants, and automation were all factors, but the trend is clear, more cars, fewer workers.
The future is robots, with a few humans here and there to keep them working at higher and higher efficiencies. Elon Musk made the telling remark that he thought he could increase the output of a factory designed for 500,000 cars a year, (the old NUMMI plant which is now the new Tesla plant in Fremont), to 5 million to 10 million a year. What was necessary was to remove “human speed” from the equation and let the machines do it. Human work will be transferred to keeping the robots humming.
Displaced workers in the taxi industry
Uber is a key disruptor in the taxi industry. For now. What many people don’t realize is that the only special characteristic that taxis have is that only they can accept riders from the street. Uber has you call them through the use of an app. The highest cost of running a cab is the human driving it, maintenance and GAS!
What happens when you have an autonomous taxi, dispatched by an Uber like app, which has radically lower cost of repair, and even with the present unprecedented low costs of fuel, will cut that cost by at least 50%? A lot of unemployed taxi drivers.
Impact on productivity
We all know about the number of hours that people put in at their jobs. In the USA it is horrendously high. It is said that Europeans work to live, Americans live to work. If you can take the average hour and a half commute to work and the hour and half commute home and make that productive time, what does that do to your work day? It should give you three more hours with the spouse and kids. This could also be a major stress reducer as well as improving productivity. The car will have no steering wheel or pedals once we achieve level 5 autonomy. You get useful work done in a car which is outfitted with everything you would have in your office. Computer, phone, printer, and reference material all at your finger tips. If you work eight hours a day at the office, you might be able to get the same work done in five hours. Oh, and Pandora will have your music list for background music, not your boss's.
Energy Production and Storage
Tesla is now absorbing Solar City, so they are getting into the energy production business. They are working like the dickens to reduce the cost of both solar cells and home storage units like PowerWall. How will this affect utilities? Again, the consumer will benefit from not worrying about outages and lower cost due to the lack of transmission lines and all that infrastructure, but what does this mean for utilities? Will employment increase or decline. Line workers, out, solar installers and repairmen, in.
It’s a brave new world out there, full of questions, opportunities and threats. Tesla is well placed to be causing a lot of disruption. In other words, you ain’t seen nothing yet.