Yesterday, Quartz posted an article about how many truck drivers don’t think automation and self-driving vehicles will impact their jobs for at least forty years(!). Without going into the psychology behind why people inherently think their job could never be done by a machine (even if they believe everyone else’s could be) I would like to bring up a key factor that these drivers may have missed, something that could deeply impact their employment well before they’re ready to park the truck for the last time. Point-to-point autonomous driving and hubs.

Driving a full-sized semi and trailer through a busy city certainly poses legal, regulatory, and technical challenges (although challenges that will be solved well before 2056!), but interstates present a much lower barrier to entry. Here’s what I think will happen. Outside major cities, “hubs” will  be created along interstate highways. Maybe at existing rest areas or truck stops, maybe even at large retailers with lots of parking lot space, like Walmart. Trucking companies will employ human drivers to get the trucks to the nearest hub. The truck will then drive itself on the interstate, possibly as part of a platoon to save fuel, and then park itself at the hub closest to its ultimate destination. Once there, a human driver will once again take the wheel and drive the truck to its unloading dock, only to return it to the hub to start the process again.

Of course there are challenges to this approach as well, such as refueling or recharging, but it will be far easier to implement than going 100% self-driving right away, and I suspect it will happen much, much sooner than forty years from now. Sure, it will still require human drivers, but with the bulk of the miles being driven autonomously, we’re going to need a lot fewer humans to drive trucks. At the same time, the technologies that enable self-driving will continue to rapidly improve and the new data from millions of autonomous interstate miles are going to put those advancements into overdrive.

This is yet another example of technology-driven changes that will happen at a timescale more accurately predicted in the number of months rather than the number of years. It also illustrates how completely unprepared and unaware most of us are when it comes to our own career life expectancy. Even as a professional futurist, someone who spends all day researching and thinking about the future and helping leaders prepare for the possibilities, I certainly don’t think I’m immune to these changes. I fully expect to be automated out of a job, and have already begun preparing for the day when the future no longer needs futurists.

How long do you think it will be before what you do at work could be replaced by new technology? Ten years? Ten Months? What are you doing today to prepare?