If the most aggressive timeline for autonomous vehicles becomes reality, the technology could displace more than 4 million driving jobs, according to a new report.
“Autonomous-vehicle technology has the potential to save many lives, limit environmental damage and increase productivity – and therefore, improve living standards across the country, if the gains are distributed equally – but it also has the potential to cause significant economic hardship, at least in the short term,” the Center for Global Policy Solutions asserts in its report, “Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work.”
More than 30 companies – including Apple, Ford, Google, Intel and Uber – say they’re working on self-driving vehicles, and their most optimistic predictions are that fully autonomous vehicles will be on the road in three to five years. If those predictions come true, 4.1 million bus drivers, delivery drivers, heavy-truck drivers, taxi drivers and chauffeurs will be at risk of losing their jobs, according to the report.
The report does not directly mention collision repairers, but it points to the possibility that consumers could be spending less on accident repairs.
“It is difficult – and probably impossible – to accurately predict the impact of autonomous vehicles on the economy,” the report says. “The number of jobs at risk could be greater than 4 million. The jobs supporting the drivers in the transportation industry may also be at risk as the number of drivers declines.
“Autonomous vehicles will no doubt create occupations that are hard to imagine today. Will there be roadside computer repair technicians to fix computer malfunctions in autonomous vehicles? Autonomous vehicles promise to be much safer than vehicles driven by people. Will autonomous vehicles lead to indirect job creation due to the additional dollars that people and businesses have to spend once they are saving money on vehicle insurance, accident repairs and car-crash medical bills? These are some of the reasons why it is very hard to predict how autonomous vehicles will transform our economy.”
A rapid transition to autonomous vehicles would inflict the most pain on workers in North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas and Iowa, “where driving occupations pay significantly more than non-driving occupations,” according to the report. It also would hurt Blacks, Hispanics and American Indians, who are overrepresented in driving occupations.
To mitigate the economic damage of a rapid shift to self-driving vehicles, the Center for Global Policy Solutions calls for “a safety net that can support workers in the event of large-scale, rapid job loss and policies that can transition workers to new jobs.”
“The unemployment insurance system also should be changed so more unemployed workers can use it, and so it better helps laid-off workers find new jobs,” the center says in the report. “Job transition can be made easier with more resources for the education and training of workers displaced by autonomous vehicles as well as other potential new technologies that cause large changes in the labor market.”