ACM study: truck driver jobs safe with self-driving vehicles; cab drivers, not so much

YPSILANTI TWP. – A new study commissioned by the American Center for Mobility finds that only a “modest” number of truck driving jobs will be affected by the rise of automated vehicles.

The study, led by Michigan State University and supported by the Texas A&M Transportation Instute, predicted that significant numbers of automated vehicles won’t be deployed until the latter half of the 2020s.

The study also found that there will be “some displacement” of passenger car driving jobs, such as taxicab drivers.

The study found that due to existing truck driver worker shortages, and the belief that automated technology will largely support truck drivers instead of replacing them, truck drivers are not likely to be displaced in large numbers during the next ten years that the study covered.

Also, limousine and bus drivers who are executing services that necessitate face-to-face interaction or passenger assistance, such as luxury services and paratransit, are less likely to be displaced by automated vehicles in the foreseeable future, the report found. These drivers will likely undergo training to learn how to use the new supportive technology.

“Automated vehicle technology could incorrectly be viewed as a change that will eliminate driving jobs,” said Shelia Cotten, MSU Foundation Professor at MSU, who led the research. “However, the more nuanced assessment is that over the next decade the innovation will foster broader societal changes resulting in shifts in the workplace and workforce demands. Additionally, this level of advanced technology has the potential to lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in the engineering, data analysis, cybersecurity and vehicle monitoring areas. Based on data collected from industry experts during the study, there is already a significant demand in several of these areas related to AVs.”

Added Soraya Kim, chief innovation officer for ACM: “The results of the report indicate substantial and multifaceted education and training efforts will be needed to transition the workforce and public for automated vehicles. We are working with academic and industry partners to facilitate the adoption of new skillsets that the workforce will need in the future.”

And Christopher Poe, assistant director of the Texas A&M Transportation Institute for connected and automated transportation strategy, said: “In the near-term there is great potential for these technologies to assist commercial drivers in safely operating trucks. Longer term, it will be important to define, develop, and deliver targeted training for the workforce.”

Based on the report’s findings, ACM and the study authors recommend the following steps be taken:
* Conduct additional research that captures the input of the vehicle operators in different workforce sectors on what training they would be interested in pursuing.
* Identify, in greater detail, the specific skillsets needed by the automotive and technology industries to facilitate the creation and adoption of AVs.
* Establish rapid coursework and training that meets those specific needs.
* Conduct additional research to quantify the overall positive financial impact of automated vehicle technology on the economy as a whole, and the potential for job creation.

Finally, the report suggests a substantial change to the way workers in many industries do their jobs, in some instances radically. The research indicates motor vehicle manufacturers and technology firms working in the automated vehicle arena are already finding it difficult to hire enough workers with certain technology skills. And as automated vehicles begin to proliferate, maintenance and certain adjacent occupations will need to evolve and expand.

The American Center for Mobility (ACM) is a non-profit testing, education and product development facility for future mobility, designed to enable safe validation and self-certification of connected and automated vehicle technology, and to accelerate the development of voluntary standards. It is funded by Michigan state government and industry partners, and is part of Michigan’s PlanetM mobility consortium. ACM is one of 10 U.S. Department of Transportation-designated automated vehicle proving grounds across the country, and is located at the historic Willow Run manufacturing site in Ypsilanti Township. For more information, visit www.acmwillowrun.org.

This latest research was funded by ACM, the American Association of Retired Persons, the Toyota Research Institute, and Waymo, the self-driving vehicle subsidiary of Google’s parent company, Alphabet Inc.

Copies of the study are available by emailing tracey.shavers@acmwillowrun.org.

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