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Automated Driving 4 min read

Debate worth having: will autonomous vehicles take millions of jobs?

Debate worth having: will autonomous vehicles take millions of jobs?

Whether autonomous vehicle technology will leave people unemployed, offer them a new career, or both, is yet to be determined.

In just eight years, the sale of autonomous vehicles is expected to reach 58 million units, as reported by Research and Markets. The market value will also increase drastically with a forecasted growth of 39.1 CAGR or a value of US$2,044.93 billion.

The autonomous vehicle market is on the rise due to increasing investments in digitization by regulatory bodies, adoption of advanced tech and the creation of smart cities, more widespread reliance on smart gadgets, the evolution of smart vehicles, in addition to increasing per capita income in wealthy countries.

While the jury is still out in terms of what will happen when humans aren't behind the wheel, two things remain true: there are advantages and disadvantages to driverless vehicles:



  • Reduced risk of road accidents
  • Less cost associated with driver wages and benefits
  • Additional mobility for disabled and/or non-drivers
  • Flexible and scalable operating system
  • Faster and cheaper commutes
  • Extensive software maintenance and upgrades
  • Risk of cyber-attacks
  • Potential widespread loss of employment
  • High cost of integration and use

Today, HERE360 discusses both sides of the argument: will autonomous vehicles take millions of jobs?

In the RethinkX report, “Rethinking Transportation", researchers found that the US auto industry employs 1.25 million directly, and 7.25 million indirectly. Meaning that millions could lose their jobs to autonomous technology.

“Autonomous cars will take jobs, and this is not necessarily a bad thing." — Andrei Iordache, HERE Technologies, Senior Solutions Manager

Andrei Iordache, Senior Solutions Manager for HERE Technologies believes that autonomous vehicles will phase out jobs: “Yes, automation will replace some jobs, just like ATMs reduced the needs of bank cashiers. But simultaneously there is a shortage of personnel in industries where automation can have a positive business impact.

"For example, long-distance truck drivers, a job that requires sacrifices few are willing or able to do. Automation will certainly help to increase productivity and allocate better resources in an aging workforce."

“Five million jobs nationwide could potentially be lost due to self-driving vehicles (including 3.5 million truck drivers), equating to 3% of the U.S. workforce. At the same time, new jobs will emerge in a shared mobility transport system serviced by electric and self-driving vehicles..." — RethinkX, “Rethinking Transportation", May 2017

When partially automated trucks are platooned with human drivers, cost savings are increased by about 7%.

“Truck drivers do more than just drive, and widespread self-driving tech is at least a decade away" MIT

A recent MIT study on the impact of autonomous technology shows the impact on truck-driving jobs will not be extensive, in the short term. MIT states that fully automated driving systems without any human “safety driver" on board won't be available until at least 2030. (Locations with cold winters and rural areas will experience longer wait times.) In addition, MIT argues that the transition will happen region-by-region, in specific areas of transportation resulting in “wide variations in availability".

Lastly, MIT researchers assert that "drivers do more than just drive" and that “human presence" within highly automated trucks would remain useful for tasks like maintenance and repair, loading, and unloading.

Autonomous driving is a complicated beast. The benefits include increased efficiency in jobs that require great time, money or sacrifice (such as trucking), faster and cheaper commutes resulting in better access to job opportunities, health and education services, and ease of mobility services. On the other hand, it seems that drivers and other workers will have to take on adapted roles and/or give up their employment positions.

In conclusion, MIT suggests a few things transportation employers can consider as we ponder whether autonomous vehicles will take millions of jobs:
  • Strengthen career pathways for drivers
  • Increase labor standards and worker protections
  • Advance public safety
  • Create jobs via human-led truck platooning
  • Promote safe and electric trucks.

Learn more about the future of autonomous driving with HERE.

Jasmine Reimer

Jasmine Reimer

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