Autonomous Vehicles: Job Killer?

According to the 2014 Census data, more than 4.4 million Americans work as drivers. Will autonomous vehicles kill most of these driver required jobs? With the growth and advancement in autonomous vehicle technologies, many Americans are in danger of losing their job or taking significant cuts in their income because a new and convenient technology is taking their place. Autonomous vehicles are expected to reduce labor cost, fuel cost and accidents. The potential savings will outweigh the human cost, especially as companies fight for profit margins. While companies plot to save money in the future through using this new tech innovation, some individuals will lose money and be left with limited job options in their field.

Take truck driving for instance. According to Census Bureau occupational data, almost two percent of Americans working as drivers are truck drivers. Truck driving is one of the most common jobs around the country and this industry has already displayed hints of being affected by autonomous vehicles. Last year, the Colorado Department of Transportation agreed to let an autonomous truck from Otto, a company recently acquired by Uber, deliver 51,744 cans of Budweiser with no one in the driver’s seat. (There was still a driver present in the truck for safety purposes.) This year, Uber plans to have thousands of trucks equipped with autonomous technology.

It could be many years before autonomous vehicles completely take over truck driving, delivery services and ride-sharing jobs. But eventually, the economic endgame is to leave the drivers behind. Is there something that these drivers can do in order to slow down this technological advancement or protect their job? Can state governments put measures in place to protect these jobs? How would these measures look? And would these measures only be a temporary solution? We surely do not know the answers to these difficult questions, as the technology is still in its development phase. Only time will tell how the questions will be answered as autonomous technology slowly becomes mainstream.

A quick look at history shows us that with the advancement of technology comes the loss of jobs. Ponder the horse and buggy industry. Once cars made their debut, the horse and buggy industry slowly faded away. This might be the fate of driving jobs; disappearing to make way for a new autonomous vehicle society.

Americans losing their jobs to technological advancement is nothing new. Think about outsourcing or even placing orders online versus going to brick and mortar stores with paid hourly workers to assist you. But the potential for driving professionals, nationwide, to lose their jobs to autonomous technology will happen sooner than many have anticipated. And the resulting societal changes will have widespread impact.


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