Will Self-Driving Vehicles Take Away Jobs?

Posted: Oct 31 2018, 8:14am CDT | by , in Cars & Vehicles


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Will Self-Driving Vehicles Take Away Jobs?
Image: Verge

The rise of autonomous vehicles will lead to the loss of many driving-related jobs, but it could also increase employment in other sectors.

While a future in which the majority of vehicles are self-driving is probably still somewhat far away, it seems that will eventually be our reality. Cars are starting to incorporate more automated capabilities, and various companies have demonstrated machines that can operate at least partially on their own. It's not just consumer vehicles either — everything from tractor-trailers trucks to tractors to forklifts is becoming automated.

While there's excitement about the potential benefits of self-driving vehicles, some are also worried about the effect they'll have on jobs that involve driving. The prospect of self-driving technologies taking away jobs seems worthy of concern, but could it also create jobs?

Jobs Lost

A recent report from non-profit Securing America's Future Energy estimated that self-driving cars could cause the loss of around 4 million jobs. As self-driving cars proliferate, the profession of taxi driver as well as being a driver for ride-hailing apps will start to disappear. Self-driving technology will also cause the loss of truck driving jobs. Around 3.5 million Americans are employed as truck drivers, and truck driving is the most common job in 29 states.

Construction and warehouse managers now also have new options to consider when buying forklifts. Some driverless forklifts for warehouses can even pick up loads, transport them and unload them without requiring any physical labor from human workers. Currently, warehouses are saving around $13,000 worth of fuel by switching to electric forklifts. As autonomous forklifts become more affordable, these types of companies may be able to reduce their workforces and still be productive.

Jobs Gained

The rise of autonomous vehicles will lead to the loss of many driving-related jobs, but it could increase employment in other sectors. According to online job board ZipRecruiter, job listings related to autonomous vehicles increased by 27 percent from January 2017 to January 2018. Many of these jobs are related to the technology itself and include engineers, software developers and technicians. Autonomous vehicle companies are also looking to hire employees for sales marketing, human resources and other positions. Jobs in safety and testing and increasing as well.

According to the Securing America's Future Energy study, driverless technology won't have a significant impact on employment in the economy overall. The report projects that the peak impact of the technology will be only 0.06 to 0.13 percentage points. This peak is expected to occur between 2045 and 2050.

Self-driving vehicles could also lead to other economic benefits, according to the report. By 2050, it projects, autonomous vehicles will have total annual economic benefits of around $796 billion. For consumers, these benefits come from reductions in the cost of transportation and time spent driving. For the public, they will come from reduced traffic congestion, accidents and oil consumption.

Helping Displaced Workers

Whenever significant new technologies arise, the economy changes. Sometimes, those technologies replace human workers. When the automobile was first introduced, it had this effect and eliminated jobs in manufacturing buggies and raising horses. Now, driverless technology is starting to replace some of the jobs that center around driving vehicles.

If recent projections are correct, autonomous vehicles may need lead to a significant net job loss. It will lead to new jobs in some areas, but for other sectors, it will result in extensive job losses and even the disappearance of some professions. The challenge then becomes helping those displaced workers to find jobs in new fields, whether that's through public policy, initiatives by private companies or other measures.

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The Author

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/56" rel="author">Scott Huntington</a>
Scott Huntington is a writer and journalist from Harrisburg PA who covered movies, tech, cars, and more. Check out his blog Off The Throttle or follow him on Twitter @SMHuntington.




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