As we pass the halfway point of 2016, predictions about the mass use of autonomous cars — think Back to the Future and Blade Runner — have not come to fruition. Still, even the most pessimistic of experts are forecasting 80 percent of Americans will be traveling in driverless cars in the not-too-distant future.
With more than 260 million cars on today’s roads, this is a big economic shift, especially for industries that depend on driving and its inherent human error. Here are a few factors to keep in mind as we, perhaps, edge closer to self-driving cars becoming a reality.
Replaced by Robots
By definition, driverless cars will not need a driver — and those hurt most by this fledgling technology include truck drivers, chauffeurs and taxi drivers. In more real terms, an estimated 4 million jobs could disappear by 2070. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, truckers without a degree earn, on average, $20 per hour. The loss of these jobs unto themselves may not be economically significant any time soon. However, this newfound technology will leave a hole in the way of job opportunities for those who haven’t earned a degree. Indeed, workers without a degree will need to find other good-paying jobs across different sectors to make a living.
Can Algorithms Make Mistakes?
Human error in driving is big business. After all, it’s the reason insurance companies exist. Simply put, if a driverless car never crashes, there’s no reason to have it insured. Like other careers, insurance agents can earn a relatively good income, sometimes without a college degree. But the multi-billion dollar auto insurance industry could very well dwindle as the use of driverless cars becomes increasingly popular. And, as the possibility of computer hacking inside these autonomous cars becomes a potential reality, there is the prospect the auto insurance industry will move into cyber-security prevention.
A Change in Mechanics
Auto repair has already undergone a significant change in the past two-plus decades. These days, there’s less grease and more electronic measurement devices at repair shops. Even today’s cars are governed by on-board computer systems that help regulate the vehicle. A good mechanic today needs to be able to interface with these modules to diagnose the vehicle. But with driverless cars, physical repairs after an auto accident will be a thing of the past, although routine maintenance and computer repair will remain. And since passengers no longer need to focus on driving, driverless cars can become more of an office or even a bedroom, which could provide a shift toward job creation in interior design for mobile spaces.
Hooray! No More DMV
With this wholesale change to driving, today’s younger generation may be one of the last that must pass a driving test to earn their driver’s license. After all, there would be no logical reason why any passenger in a driverless car would need a driver’s license. Since this is one of the primary functions of the Department of Motor Vehicles, we can predict jobs lost in this government agency with the increase of driverless cars. Likewise, traffic police and magistrates may also disappear.
Humans: Not Always Great Drivers
Road and highway construction is a $100 billion industry, employing more than 200,000 people across the United States. Many of the reasons why roads need to be routinely repaired is due to driver negligence. Snow chains left on too long, vehicle accidents and hitting the same pothole day after day tear up our roads and highways. Though they will still need annual or even semi-annual repairs, driverless cars will be kinder and gentler to our roads, all while requiring less upkeep.