By Frederick H. Lowe
Self-driving vehicles will drive over 4 million workers to the unemployment line if the technology is fully implemented in a short period of time, concludes a research paper by the Center for Global Policy Solutions, a Washington, D. C.-based think tank and action organization.
More than 30 companies, including automakers Ford, BMW, Honda, Volvo and technology companies Apple and Google are developing autonomous vehicles, supplanting the need for drivers. Self-driving vehicles have the potential to save many lives, limit environmental damage and increase productivity.
But a research paper titled “Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work” reports that men and people of color nationally and workers in North Dakota, Idaho, Wyoming, West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Iowa and Indiana would suffer economic disruption from such a transition because a higher share of workers in those states make their living driving.
“Many of those impacted could lose their jobs and experience declining wages in both driving and non-driving occupations. The economic ripple effects throughout those states and regions would be severe,” the research paper said.
The Center for Global Policy Solutions notes that there are 4.1 million driving jobs and 77 percent are delivery and long-haul truck drivers; 14 percent are bus drivers and 8 percent are taxi and chauffeur drivers. Some 3.6 million men and about half a million women hold these occupations.
Whites comprise 62 percent of the 4.1 million workers in driving occupations, but African Americans, Hispanics and Native Americans would be particularly hard hit by the move to driverless or autonomous vehicles because they are overrepresented in the industry.
Some 4.23 percent or 653,000 blacks rely on driving jobs, more than other racial and ethnic groups. Some 3.25 percent or 717,000 Hispanics work in the driving profession and 3.07 percent or 59,000 Native Americans hold jobs as drivers.
Delivery drivers and heavy truck drivers, which make up 77 percent of driving occupations, have the highest median pay at $34,700, more than the $33,700 median wage for non-driving occupations.
For blacks the driving premium is nearly $2,500 more than non-driving jobs.
Dr. Maya Rockeymoore, president and CEO of the Center for Global Policy Solutions, said the rapid loss of jobs is likely right around the corner.”
“We need a strong safety net that can bolster workers in event of large-scale, rapid job losses, along with policies that can transition them to new jobs,” Rockeymoore said.
The report recommends a number of policies to mitigate job losses. They are: automatic unemployment insurance, progressive basic income and automatic medicaid eligibility.