As many as four million truck, bus, delivery and taxi driving jobs could be lost if fully autonomous vehicle technology is adopted in a short period of time, according to a new report.
With more than 30 companies—including automakers BMW, Daimler and Ford and technology giants Apple, Uber and Google—developing autonomous vehicle technology, the idea that transportation workers will be replaced by these innovations is no longer science fiction, finds a new paper from the progressive think tank Center for Global Policy Solutions (CGPS).
“Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work” reports that some states and populations will be harder hit than others.
Men and people of color nationally and workers in states such as North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa and Indiana would suffer disproportionate economic disruption from such a transition, according to CGPS. In these states, a higher share of workers is in driving occupations and those jobs pay significantly more than non-driving occupations.
Many could lose their jobs and experience declining wages in both driving and non-driving occupations, the authors say.
According to the organization, the economic ripple effects throughout those states and their regions would be severe.
“This crisis is likely right around the corner,” said Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, CGPS president and CEO. “We need a strong safety net that can bolster workers in the event of large-scale, rapid job losses, along with policies that can transition them to new jobs.”
Not everyone agrees driverless trucks are around the corner and many believe regulations and costs will influence how quickly the technologies are out on the road. But research into autonomous vehicles is in high gear, with Google and car makers at the forefront and in some cases already manufacturing products. Uber is partnering with Volvo and Toyota to make autonomous vehicles. That is one of many partnerships forming to compete in the race to offer driverless vehicles.
In May, 2015, the state of Nevada granted Daimler Trucks North America (DTNA) a license to operate its Freightliner Inspiration Truck, the first licensed autonomous commercial truck to operate on an open public highway in the U.S.
Last October, when Uber Technologies bought self-driving truck startup Otto, Otto co-founder Lior Ron told Reuters in an interview that Otto-branded trucks and others using Otto technology will begin hauling freight in 2017.
Last August, the first driverless taxi began roaming the streets of Singapore in a limited trial.
Earlier this month, a San Francisco office park began using driverless shuttles on public roads to transport workers around its complex.
According to the CGPS report, of the nation’s 4.1 million driving jobs, 77 percent are delivery and heavy truck drivers, 14 percent bus drivers, and 8 percent taxi and chauffeur drivers. There are 3.6 million men and about half a million women in these occupations.
Driving occupations represent a significant source of work for those with lower levels of education: 93 percent of delivery and heavy truck drivers have less than a bachelor’s degree.
Delivery drivers and heavy truck drivers, which make up 77 percent of the driving occupations, have the highest median pay at $34,700, more than the $33,700 median wage for non-driving occupations.
The top five states with the largest numbers of workers in driving occupations are California (432,000), Texas (353,000), New York (282,000), Florida (224,000), and Illinois (189,000).
CGPS’s research addresses disparities in health, education and economic security by race/ethnicity, location, gender and age. This study on driver job displacement by autonomous vehicles found:
- Whites make up about 62 percent of the 4.1 million workers in driving occupations, but blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans are overrepresented:
- With 4.23 percent (653,000) of black workers in driving occupations, blacks rely on driving jobs more than other racial/ethnic groups. This is true in every driving occupation category.
- With 3.25 percent (717,000) of Hispanic workers in driving occupations, Hispanics have the second heaviest reliance on the sector and are especially overrepresented as delivery drivers and heavy truck drivers and very slightly as taxi drivers and chauffeurs.
- With 3.07 percent (59,000) of American Indians holding driving jobs, that population is also slightly overrepresented, especially among delivery drivers and heavy truck drivers and as bus drivers.
For Hispanics, driving jobs have a median annual wage over $5,800 higher than for non-driving jobs. For blacks, that driving premium is nearly $2,500 more than non-driving jobs and for American Indians it is $2,000 higher than for non-driving jobs. So, for all these racial and ethnic groups, the loss of driving jobs would be a significant loss of some of their better paying work opportunities, according to CGPS.
The report recommends a number of policies to mitigate job losses, including unemployment insurance, job training, a basic income program and Medicaid to enable workers to stay afloat and healthy while they to retrain, gain additional education and find new employment.
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