After several high-profile accidents involving autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles – some of them deadly – its’ clear that a large part of the population has serious reservations about the technology.
Safety aside, there’s another dark side to the driverless car, according to many, who fear that their proliferation would result in the dislocation of scores of professional drivers.
So, should taxi, truck, and bus drivers be concerned that they could soon be automated out of their profession? Automotive News says no, citing a new report that contends the economic impact of driverless cars will absolutely dwarf the job losses.
A study completed by SAFE – Securing America’s Future Energy – a group designed to support the nation’s energy security by reducing our dependence on oil, says that by 2050, the economic impact will be near the $800 billion mark.
Positive results will include public benefits like congestion reduction, fewer accidents and reduced oil consumption – an interesting contention considering The Economist said earlier this week that driverless cars might actually increase congestion, if people travel more once the hassle of driving is reduced.
But I digress.
SAFE’s report also suggests that there will also be a big economic boon from productivity gains – less time driving and more time working, online shopping, or whatever other activities users wish to engage in besides staring at the license plate of the car in front of the them on the freeway during rush hour.
While new jobs will result from the new industry, they’re unlikely to be a direct match for the commercial driving ones that are going away: those engineering and managing the technology, for example, are not the same folks that are driving buses. That said, the report says that, because we have so much lead time as we move toward the mass proliferation of driverless cars, we can prepare the workforce for transitioning to new jobs. The economic impact of the autonomous vehicle industry could even help fund these types of skills adjustments programs though, let’s be real, I’ll believe it when I see it.
But there is another silver lining in the transportation sector as it relates to long haul trucking. This industry has been facing significant driver shortages for year and autonomous vehicles will likely help keep transportation and distribution of goods flowing if that doesn’t change in the coming year.