Going Driverless

Or: If You Don’t Like My Driving, Press One Now

In my last entry, I wrote about labor-saving technologies and their effects on our job markets. Automation tends always to cost jobs, but for the most part they also tend to produce new jobs.

We've reached a tipping point, however. As labor-saving technologies get more and more efficient, the amount of labor one person can accomplish has begun to significantly exceed the amount of labor products that they can consume. We're about to start losing a lot of jobs, and soon.

Going Driverless

Get Behind the Wheel

One of the biggest—though by no means the only—job-killing technology on its way? Self-driving cars.           

Truck drivers fulfill a common employment segment in the United States, especially now that automation has killed an alarming number factory jobs. In 2014, there were more than 1.6 million semi-truck drivers in America. There are another 800,000 delivery truck drivers out there. Now add to that more than a million Uber drivers, tens of thousands of taxi drivers, and some half a million bus drivers. Almost all of them are likely to lose their jobs to self-driving cars.

This doesn't even bring into account the ancillary jobs that will be lost. Automated fleets of self-driving Ubers will eliminate the need for most city residents to own their own cars, meaning there will simply be far fewer cars on the road. They'll also have fewer accidents. There will be fewer car dealers, fewer repair shops, and even fewer gas stations.

Those self-driving semis? Many small towns along American highways are heavily dependent on truckers to fuel their economy. When you no longer have truckers needing rest stops, hotels, and restaurants, you're going to see a lot of these small towns folding up and withering away. 

Self-driving cars are going to cost millions of jobs, but are we likely to stop them from rolling out?

Well, no. They'll make the elderly, the young, and the chronically sick mobile again. They'll drop traffic fatalities by at least an order of magnitude. They'll be much more profitable for shipping companies, which will be able to operate around the clock. Insurance costs will drop nation-wide. Driverless cars will be more environmentally friendly. The list of benefits just goes on and on.

So how likely are you to lose your job to a robot and other labor-saving technology, and what can we do to ameliorate its effects? I'll be talking about that next time.



Yes, Yard Ramp GuyEgads:

“Europe was created by history. America was created by philosophy."

— Margaret Thatcher

Posted in Cautionary Tales.