"They announced it and everyone looked at each other and we were like, why are we even talking about this," Ready-Campbell, who's now 29, told CNBC. "There's no way it's going to work."
Seven years later, the technology is working. In fact, it's so far along that in California more than 40 companies have licenses to test autonomous vehicles, with the trucking industry not far behind.
Ready-Campbell, whose dad was a general contractor, is getting in on the action and taking advantage of the dramatic advances in automation to go after construction. For the past two years, he's been developing software and sensors that can turn off-the-shelf excavators into robots that can dig holes with precision for hours without a break.
From a small dirt field in a sparsely populated part of San Francisco, Ready-Campbell's 10-person start-up, Built Robotics, has been stealthily operating a retrofitted skid steer, directing it via a computer program to move around dirt.