Driverless cars are on the way. Even if a world in which no one ever needs to drive a car again isn’t quite round the corner, the rapid evolution of autonomous vehicles may mean we should still expect significant technological disruption within the next 10 years, especially in industries which rely on automobiles today.
These changes could have a huge impact on the way many businesses operate, on the broader economy and, critically, on the role millions of people have within it (pdf). Although driverless cars are still at a nascent stage of evolution, their advent may cause many jobs to change or disappear entirely in the next 20-30 years – from taxi drivers to truck drivers, from auto-retailers to agricultural workers.
Take the trucking industry. The positive impact of AV (autonomous vehicle) technology means increased fleet efficiency, a huge saving in labor costs, and potential savings to pass on to consumers. But there are currently some 3.5 million people employed as truck drivers in the US alone. So the negative may mean vast numbers out of work as driverless trucks become the norm.
And it’s not just the drivers. Consider the local economies that working drivers support.
The same scenario can be applied to any number of sectors. We’ve already seen significant disruption in the taxi industry from companies like Uber and Lyft. Now imagine all of those cars being automated, and the impact on drivers around the world. In fact, the entire car ownership model is under threat, and with it, the wide range of jobs it currently supports: everything from repairs to parking, from financing to insurance.
This technology is going to bring new challenges. Firms which buy company cars or trucks will want to upgrade to driverless vehicles. Some may avoid purchasing vehicles for their fleets and choose leasing or paying for on-demand subscription services instead. Those which rely on driving, such as taxi and haulage, will have to consider the implications of a seismic transition.