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Report explores how automated vehicles could affect driving jobs

A report into the impact of automated vehicles on driving jobs, published earlier this month, suggests that a rise in automated vehicles will not displace significant numbers of truck driving jobs, but that their arrival will have some impact on passenger car driving jobs.

The report, commissioned by the American Center for Mobility (ACM), led by Michigan State University (MSU) and supported by Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI), found that some displacement of passenger car driving jobs could occur as automated vehicles are deployed in significant numbers in the latter half of the 2020s.

However, found the research, due to existing truck driver shortages, and the belief that automated technology will largely support truck drivers instead of replacing them, truck drivers are not likely to be displaced in large numbers during the next ten years – the period covered by the study.

“In the near-term there is great potential for these technologies to assist commercial drivers in safely operating trucks,” said Christopher Poe, Assistant Director for Connected and Automated Transportation Strategy, TTI.

“Longer-term it will be important to define, develop, and deliver targeted training for the workforce.”

Driving jobs that involve face-to-face interaction, such as limousine and bus/transit drivers, or passenger assistance, such as luxury services and paratransit, are also less likely to be displaced by automated vehicles in the foreseeable future, according to the research, which was funded by ACM, Waymo, AARP and the Toyota Research Institute.

Instead, these drivers are likely to undergo training to learn how to use the new technology to support their roles.



“Automated vehicle technology could incorrectly be viewed as a change that will eliminate driving jobs; however, the more nuanced assessment is that over the next decade the innovation will foster broader societal changes resulting in shifts in the workplace and workforce demands,” said Shelia Cotten, MSU Foundation Professor at Michigan State University, who led the research.

 “Additionally, this level of advanced technology has the potential to lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in the engineering, data analysis, cybersecurity and vehicle ‘monitoring’ areas. Based on data collected from industry experts during the study, there is already a significant demand in several of these areas related to AVs.” 

ACM and the study’s authors recommend a number of steps, based on the report’s findings:

  • Conduct research to find out what training vehicle operators in different sectors would be interested in pursuing
  • Identify in greater detail the specific skillsets needed by the automotive and technology industries to facilitate the creation and adoption of automated vehicles, and develop training to meet those needs
  • Conduct additional research to quantify the overall positive financial impact of automated vehicle technology on the economy as a whole, and the potential for job creation.

The report also suggests a substantial change to the way workers in many industries do their jobs. The research indicates that vehicle manufacturers and technology firms working on automated vehicles are already struggling to hire enough workers with certain technology skillsets; and that as automated vehicles begin to proliferate, occupations such as maintenance will need to evolve and expand.