Future Tech

Self Driving Cars Endanger Millions of American Jobs (And That’s Okay)

Joel Lee 19-06-2015

The self-driving car How Self-Driving Cars Work: The Nuts and Bolts Behind Google's Autonomous Car Program Being able to commute back and forth to work while sleeping, eating, or catching up on your favorite blogs is a concept that is equally appealing and seemingly far-off and too futuristic to actually happen. Read More is technology’s biggest gift to civilization since the birth of the Internet. It’ll be a few decades before driverless cars become the norm Here's How We'll Get to a World Filled With Driverless Cars Driving is a tedious, dangerous, and demanding task. Could it one day be automated by Google's driverless car technology? Read More , but when that day comes, it will be glorious. Robot cars will restore mobility to the young, elderly, and disabled. They’ll make travel cheaper and safer. In short, they’re going to change the world.


This impending revolution comes with one huge drawback: robot cars are going to destroy a lot of jobs.

With companies like Tesla already pushing for autonomous features as early as this coming summer Tesla to Release Autonomous Car Features This Summer Tesla owners may get a peek at self-driving features sooner than expected. Tesla has its own autonomous car program, and they want to push some of their software to end users this summer. Read More , the threat against American jobs is immediate. But just how many jobs will be lost? And is this economic loss justified? The answers may surprise you.

Which Jobs Are At Risk, Exactly?

Not long ago, the first self-driving truck First Autonomous Truck Announced: What Does This Mean for Truckers? Read More was released into the wild. Freightliner’s Inspiration, with its ceremonial license plate of AU 010, is the biggest milestone to be hit since the autonomous vehicle discussion began. It’s only legal in Nevada at the moment, and it has a human driver as backup, but it’s a monumental step just the same.

But the Inspiration is not a good sign for current truck drivers in the United States. Check out this map of the most common profession by state, courtesy of NPR:



That’s a LOT of truck drivers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were approximately 1.6 million American truck drivers in 2014 earning a mean income of $42,000. That’s more than half a percent of the country, and $67 billion dollars in income – about 0.3% of the US GDP.

These new trucks aren’t completely autonomous yet, but the technology is going to get there sooner rather than later. And when that day arrives, those truck drivers will need to find something else to do. When you include delivery truck operators, which numbered around 800,000 in 2014, we end up with 2.4 million people who may be out of a job in the next decade or two.


But the bigger topic of conversation when it comes to self-driving cars and their impact How Self-Driving Cars Will Change Transportation Forever As we move into 2015, the question is no longer whether self-driving cars will replace manually driven cars, but how quickly they'll take over. Read More ? Service drivers. Mainly we’re talking about taxi drivers — and more recently, Uber drivers — but also included in the conversation are people like bus drivers.


As autonomous vehicle technology improves, it’s easy to imagine a world where these vehicles have no need for a human operator. This would leave the following people jobless: 180,000 taxi drivers, 160,000 Uber drivers, 500,000 school bus driver, and 160,000 transit bus drivers, for a grand total of 1 million jobs.


And if we extrapolate a bit and throw in a dash of speculation, we can look at the potential impact on peripheral jobs that don’t involve direct driving but do provide services to modern day consumer drivers. For example, auto body repair shops.

While driverless cars are nowhere near perfect in terms of safety, they are undoubtedly safer than the average American driver. Over 6 years of public testing, Google’s vehicles have only been in 11 minor accidents, and if Google’s reports are trustworthy, none of those accidents were caused by the autonomous vehicle.


A study by McKinsey & Company predicts that, in a future where all cars are driverless, we could see a crash rate reduction of up to 90 percent. Lower accident rates would lead to less frequent visits to auto body repair shops, and that would leave a good portion of the 445,000 auto body repairers without a job.


Other peripherally-impacted jobs could include street meter maids, parking lot attendants, gas station attendants, rental car agencies, and more. Not all of these would lose their jobs entirely, but it’s hard to imagine that these industries wouldn’t be drastically affected, which could affect up to 220,000 more workers.

In total, that’s a little over 4 million American jobs put at risk due to the coming revolution in self-driving cars – more than 1% of the country. Do note that this change will tend result in reemployment rather than unemployment, leading to an overall boost in economic productivity, provided the economy continues to expand.


The Economic Benefits of Self-Driving Cars

Now that we’ve determined how many potential jobs are at risk, let’s look at the potential benefits that we can enjoy once autonomous cars become the norm. Will these benefits justify those lost jobs? I’ll illustrate what we stand to gain, but only you can decide whether the trade will be worth it.

As mentioned earlier, the McKinsey prediction is that a society of self-driving cars could see a reduction in crash rates up to 90 percent. For the individual, this means less money spent on car repairs, maintenance, and health bills related to automotive accidents — which is estimated to be around $180 billion per year.

On a wider scale, we get fewer accidents when transporting cargo over long distances, so companies save money on lost goods. There’s also a slight safety increase since fuel tankers and other volatile vehicles are less prone to crash and burn, but admittedly the gains here may not be significant.


Going back to individual benefits, many regions might move away from the “one car per person” mentality that we currently possess, especially in urban environments. Imagine this: whenever you need a car, you open an app and request one, and it’s there in a few minutes. Uber is already faster than an ambulance in cities like London. Robot cars can probably get that number smaller. When you get to your destination, there’s no need to find parking – the car simply drives away.

Without needing to own our own vehicles anymore, we’d save on gas, maintenance, parking, and insurance costs.

More remarkably, imagine a scenario in which all of these cars were hooked into a singular network. In essence, cars would talk to one another How Cars Will One Day Talk to Each Other Tomorrow's transportation is not just about the self-driving car. The future will see networks of cars working together to keep passengers safe and deliver them to their destinations efficiently. Read More wirelessly as they traveled, and this kind of hivemind would be a huge step towards more efficient driving. People going to the same places could be pooled, sending buses along popular routes, and smart-cars for one-off trips. Electric cars could be used more easily, since they could charge themselves without needing to inconvenience a person. All of this amounts to huge savings. Using autonomous vehicles could wind up costing only a few cents per mile.


A practical example of this kind of hivemind network would be the case of inner city parking. In places like New York, it’s almost impossible to find parking because we all want to park as close to our destination as possible. With autonomous cars, that’s no longer necessary. The car can immediately go help someone else when you’re done with it. No more waiting around depreciating and using up space. How many hours of your life have been wasted in search of a place to park? Now you can arrive at your destination, step out, and go on with your day – the car will do the same.


Another practical example of the automotive hivemind: traffic efficiency. Did you know that your vehicle’s fuel economy rating is based on optimal conditions? If you aren’t driving like a perfect robot, you aren’t getting anywhere near the fuel economy that you think you are.

For example, the most fuel-efficient way to drive is the “pulse and glide method”, which involves a rhythmic alternating between acceleration and coasting. Anything less than that and you’re wasting gas. Gas-powered autonomous cars can be programmed with optimal driving behavior, which saves on gas.

But more importantly, optimal driving behavior leads to minimal congestion. Did you know that many traffic jams occur simply due to human inefficiency? Check this out if you don’t believe me:

A study by INRIX found that the average American and European driver wastes about 111 hours in gridlock every year. What would you do with an extra 111 hours? With driverless cars, gridlock could be a thing of the past.

What else could we get by cutting humans out of the driving equation?

Perhaps the biggest benefit of the driverless car is that they don’t suffer from human flaws. Machines have no need to sleep, which means around-the-clock operation of vehicles, but it also means that they aren’t burdened by drowsiness. That’s an additional point for the “autonomous cars are safer” column.

Another cost that passes down to the customer: insurance premiums. Insurance rates are calculated based on risk. Since we’ve already established that driverless cars are significantly safer than the average human driver, insurance costs will plummet. Plus, most of those costs will shift to manufacturers and operators of said cars, leaving us free of that burden.


There are so many more benefits to explore, but I’ll end with one that’s particularly poignant in light of Tesla’s recent advancements in battery technology Did Elon Musk Just Save Us From Fossil Fuels? Read More : the fact that driverless cars are more friendly for the environment.

Most of the aforementioned benefits are about cost savings and gas efficiency: less gridlock, less idling, less searching for parking, and more use of electric vehicles? If we follow that thread, the natural conclusion is that improved efficiency leads to reduced carbon emissions. That’s always a good thing.

There are other factors to consider, which you can read about in our defense that autonomous cars are good for the environment.

A New Era Is Around the Corner

The truth is that the advent of a driverless car industry will surely displace more jobs than it will create, but the long-term gains that we’ll see as a society far outweigh the short-term growing pains and inconveniences. The economic, environmental, and human benefits are astounding. I truly believe that this is one of the situations where the loss of jobs is a valid sacrifice for the greater good of society.

Would I be singing the same tune if self-writing robots were also on the horizon, threatening my own job? If they offered the same kind of economic value and social benefits as self-driving cars, you bet. Self-driving cars are simply too good to pass up. To learn more, check out how self-driving cars know where they are with SLAM What Is SLAM? How Self-Driving Cars Know Where They Are How do self-driving cars know where they are? It's called "simultaneous localization and mapping" (SLAM). Here's how it works. Read More .

Is your job endangered by self-driving cars? How do you think they’ll impact the global economy? Do the benefits justify the loss of millions of jobs? Tell us what you think in the comments below!

Image Credits: Delivery Man and Package Via Shutterstock, Most Common Profession Via NPRTaxi At Night Via Shutterstock, Auto Body Repair Shop Via Shutterstock, Parking Enforcer Via Shutterstock, Trucks On Highway Via Shutterstock, Automated Parking Complex Via Shutterstock, Fuel Gauge Via Shutterstock, Car In Nature Via Shutterstock

Related topics: Automotive Technology, Job Searching, Robotics, Self-Driving Car.

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  1. Corey Williams
    July 18, 2019 at 8:46 pm

    Autonomous vehicles are a bad idea the only one benefitting from them are the manufacturers that are going to make billions of $$$ on this technology what about people who enjoy driving and collision repair shops and also jobs ok so they may have fewer accidents and save lives but why make them fully autonomous most new vehicles now are fitted with safety technology why just advance that instead of taking away more jobs and the fun of driving.

  2. James
    March 28, 2019 at 11:39 pm

    It is kind of ignorant to presume that self-driving cars are about safety and speed. Self-driving cars are simply a way to do to the transportation industry, what they did to the clothing industry. Automation is about driving the costs down and make competition impossible, make a market in which it's impossible to compete with the giant. Letting the largest organizations in control of everything, lobbying with billions to prevent regulations, taxation and laws that could deteriorate their market. It's all about greed.

    My only hope when it comes to car automation is to not be alive to see it.

  3. Aaron
    November 29, 2018 at 1:37 pm

    This technology was born purely of corporate greed $$$. In the end, it will be discovered that autonomous vehicles are a disastrous failure and will cause more accidents than people cause. The technology will be subsequently abandoned.

  4. Chris
    May 15, 2018 at 10:54 pm

    The inevitability of self driving cars makes their relative benefits and costs to society hardly worth discussing. The usual argument is that the the automated loom also destroyed thousands of jobs, as did the assembly line, as do all great leaps forward in efficiciency. You can't avoid the fact that a more efficient system will always, always trounce a less efficient system and replace it. The question isn't, therefore the relative costs (4 million jobs, possible loss of independence) and benefits (mobility for the blind/disabled, vastly fewer premature deaths, reduced traffic, cheaper mobility and logistics, reduced wasted time to name a few), but to decide how to respond as a society. I do think this time is different from the loom. Eventually, AI will, if it fulfills its promise, become a universal capability machine - just like we are. We'll run out of things we can do that it can't, or at least practically everything. This was never the case with the loom or the assembly line. The obvious solution, I think, is universal basic income. A form of redistribution, yes, but quite likely the only way to prevent the collapse of large sectors of the economy. For thousands of years human society has been so inefficient that it required the collective labor of all. In the future, it is quite likely that it will be so efficient that very few individuals will need to work, and none of them at menial tasks. Is the solution to let the rest starve while the extremely few amass more capital than they frankly want? No. A living wage will likely be paid to all, and work while become the stuff of creative striving rather than dull survival. It won't be easy but I think it will happen gradually because it will have to happen.

  5. Cfing
    January 10, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    I think the inventors of self driving vehicles have not weighed the consequences, or impact on jobs, the cost of eliminating millions of people from having gainful employment. It is counter productive to create a product that could bankrupt many businesses, and cause devastating effects to the job market
    Creation of new technology jobs will not even closely match the massive loss of current jobs. This is a insult to humans, and their self worth, as being able to drive for themselves, and it demeans our own intelligence. It will create a huge profit for a few while the average citizen may be thrown into poverty suddenly, do to the unfathonable loss of jobs that involve driving by people. I think this idea has not been thought through, and self driving cars amount to openig Pandora's Box.
    The impact of all self driving cars will destroy people's lives, and create chaos that can't be imagined. Most of society does not want, to trust their lives to AI cars that don't have a human driver. It is a form of Communism to take away the priviledges, and rights of human beings, and deny their abilites to make decisions for themselves. I reject the self driving car concept, and feel it is something most people don't want, or need. Greed is not a reason to replace humans with robots, or
    eliminate jobs that people need to have to provide a living. Humans are more important than machines, or robots.
    Lucy L.

    • G Fleming
      October 23, 2018 at 5:12 am

      I agree, the best thing about self driving cars, will be no dwi s, we all going to be at the bar, depressed, with nothing else to do. They left out the jobs lost to auto lawn mower, mailman, ambulance chaser lawyers, dwi lawers, self driving forklifts. ....I am sure I left some out.

  6. Nate
    September 30, 2017 at 3:08 am

    I see this is article comments have tapered off, but this subject literally scares the crap out of me I've done a ton of research on it and my career is a heavy truck technician, please everyone come at me with the "uneducated, unskilled, low wage" bs I would put my wage and benefits against 90% of people out there and you'd be surprised what is involved in working on these systems and the income potential I'll leave it at 6 figs......keep thinking that because you wear a collar and sit in a cubicle that the real people that make the shit work in this country are uneducated, But I see in the distant future as these vehicles come about not only mass unemployment in the auto and transportation, but all the way onto the upper class will feel it, not just the drivers, but car manufacturers and dealerships will all but disappear, gas stations, independent shops, roadside assistance companies like AAA, auto parts companies, insurance companies, finance companies, big oil....which I guarantee price will go down eliminating the benefits of recycling because it will be cheaper to just make new products being they mostly come from oil, it literally will negatively effect a multitude of industries, the jobs listed above are just th3 direct job losses, one other study i read puts unemployment at 15-20% including other affected industries, On top of that i guarantee electricity prices will go up affecting everyone. Or what do you tell the people living in BFE america wyoming, montana, soutb dakota etc, they dont have public transportation let alone a company to provide transportation and what will thwy do when the private car manufacturera fold due to loss of sales and revenue, plus the effect of these failing companies which are a majority fortune 500 companies, Let alone the fact that awesome we can all get around without owning a car but if no one has a job where do they need to go? How will they afford to live, eat, have a home etc. Thanks just the tip of the iceberg. Once they actually implement AI in other entry level jobs like fast food, data entry, food service, warehousing (like Amazon has done) it will pretty much destroy the world economy, or.....well just watch terminator 3 lol or the AI will make us work for it. Or we can end up in this magical leftist utopian land they always try to push where everyone is equal, they will finally have it and everyone will be equally worthless and beg the gov't, the filthy rich, and the AI for their daily bread.

  7. TamD
    September 22, 2017 at 6:20 am

    I think you missed the biggest one of all which is the reduction in accidents which will hugely reduce the cost to the medical system, potentially put a lot of doctors and physiotherapists, etc... out of work, but obviously spare many lives. The safety thing is an easy one to make happen, because it doesn't require an improvement in vehicle safety to happen. If all the same stuff happened with the same safety record, today, vehicles carry millions of people who don't need to be here. The other night I drove my daughter to here university. My wife had to come to help with some task, and my young daughter came along because she couldn't be left at home alone. So in total there were 7 trips, only one of which was necesarry. And that is common, truck drivers don't want to go were the load needs to go (though maybe they coudl bus some people who do), taxi driver, ambulance driver (though how you get people into the ambulance is a question). And so forth.

    On the flip side, most of the positive views of what will happen don't take into account that reducing the number of people driving cars to zero, will explode the potential trips to be undertaken. As you point out many people who need cars can't drive today. I own one car, but if I could, and the car didn't polute, all 5 members of my family could use cars, and I could use trucking to move goods. I could have a fleet of cars if I could afford it, and some rich people will. The roads will be privatized, bikes will be pushed to the side. And if Uber is an example of the kind of billing that will be used, these new market pressures with jack cost to the pain point since we don't have a reasonable way to allocated scarce resources when faced with vastly increased demand. So far, the internet, the cell phone, uber, have all proven to have much higher costs for the most part than the services they replaced. Phone used to be 25 bucks, and TV was 15, but today they are nearing 500 a month. And that is without a single kid having a cell phone.

  8. Tim
    September 19, 2017 at 10:04 am

    Interesting article, but as a parent I wonder what I should suggest my children should study so the have a chance of a job in 10yrs from now.
    I suggest that all these vehicles must have a human inside the vehicle as a guide or a human a person of contact. This should be written in to the human rights " The right to work and not to be replaced by artificial inteligence".

  9. Brian Johnson @sobertime_Rx
    August 27, 2017 at 12:12 am

    You say this loss of jobs is acceptable for the greater good of society, let's do a little more extrapolating. Artificial intelligence not only is applicable to vehicles, it is increasingly able to handle more and more complex tasks that humans do. Fast food service has already begun introducing these systems, phone systems employ automated technology although it is augmented and primarily left to people currently, even writing composition work is done through AI admittedly it is sophisticated enough to handle only the most benign literary compositions such as writing reviews of sporting events, a relatively non complex factual accounting of events. So if we are to extrapolate this culture of progressing along this path of transitioning human labor to artificial labor, how many jobs are really going to end up becoming a part of an uncentralized assembly line? Sure we can talk about cost savings and financial shifts in peripheral markets and create a picture of a society where operational efficiency has mitigated end consumer expenses to become negligible or perhaps in some cases non existent. The only problem with that reasoning is that it does not take into account the disparate nature of owning the means of production, very few people in the world retain ownership of any significance in all of the capitalist institutions across the planet. As AI continues to march down this path of assimilating jobs starting from the least sophisticated and moving progressively into more complex employment tasks, the displaced workers at every level of this process with lack the skills necessary to be employed within highly technical positions and left without an ability to provide for themselves. I'm sure you're thinking well we will just train these people and provide educations so they may continue to exchange their labor for wages, right? Before I get into the bleak eventuality of that situation let's examine who's society is benefitting from all this operational efficiency and risk management reductions. It certainly isn't me, and it certsinly isn't you, at least not how you envision it anyways. In a capitalistic economic organization there really is only one tangible entity which represents value. It's not the precious metals or transportation vehicles, or even the environment or for that matter a human being either. In this system the driving force to acquire this one thing is so great it exceeds the value of the chemical constituents that sustain life. This is why our institutions have polluted the world into a state that we now are on the verge of substantial climate change, people are transacted and utilized in this pursuit demonstrating even our own dignity is worth less than this thing. Money, or what is money exactly? A quantifiable measure of capitalism. Capitalism seeks to produce more capitalism to no end and without regard for the sanctity of anything but capitalism. So it may be a bit naive to think that the benefits of these shifts in how we make and produce and distribute products will trickle all the way down to the end consumers when the very nature of this system demands and pushes for the antithesis of that. Companies are not evolving in this way to just take any savings and transactionally apply that to what consumers pay, they are doing it to maximize return and succeed in this competitive system to as much of a degree and is possible to achieve. Yes some level of end consumer cost can be assumed from this shift but how much that might be at its greatest potential I believe will be a stark contrast to the image you portray. While we could debate about this and find compelling arguments to make on both sides, all of these points end up becoming moot when the real issue I aim to describe comes into play. Let's get back for a moment to the idea of retraining low skilled workers to sustain our model for distributing wealth. As we move from least sophisticated to more sophisticated jobs this shift can be thought of as having a negative correlation to the total number of jobs available, so in more sophisticated jobs there are less jobs needed for the functions they adresss whereas the least sophisticated jobs comprise the vast majority of employment opportunities. So given this framing it is logically impossible to think that any meaningful or long term retraining program can exist. Immediately from the initial displacement of jobs we create a huge influx of larger populations of people to be employed in fields with diminished demand. The employment market is dysfunctional at the first stages from the over abundance in supply of workers to the demand for these workers. Even if this was a functional system that could exist for a time, as the AI continues its evolution and its push upwards into these highly skilled jobs, exponentially any imbalance of this design occurs and will eventually leave virtually all people unemployed. But let's get to the real issue that keeps me up at night, the simple fact is that when you say these things benefit society that's only true in a limited scope due to society not being equally distributed between persons so what a more accurate description is that this benefits the segments of society that already own the means of production or the businesses which are served through this evolution. I will not have any ownership interest in these companies and likely neither will you or anyone else that doesn't already possess it. The Rockefellers and Trumps of the world will have compounded the rate of wealth redistribution to a point that society can no longer tolerate. Karl Marx urged the working class need only rise up and take the means of production from those which manipulate our economic system for their own gains. In his time that certainly may have been a viable and potential reality, but in a world where a machine can functionally perform most complex human activities, and likely with proficiency that far exceeds our natural capabilities, the natural power struggle between humans has faded into obscurity leaving in its stead a total allocation of resources and labor potential into the hands of the elite. Were people to rise up to distribute all means of production equally under some socialist system, what we then face is an impossible struggle of the poor versus the machines of the wealthy. Total, complete, absolute subjugation. I truly hope the evolution I now describe never is realized and my words amount to the rantings of a paranoid individual, I don't think that will be how our hindsight recalls the history of humanity that has yet to unfold. Hold onto that excitement and optimism you feel about this new stage of societal development we have now already begun to make. You might find that sooner or later those feelings of optimism have turned into deep and pervasive feelings of despair and futility.

    • Juan Johnson
      August 29, 2017 at 5:38 pm

      Thank you so much for your rather lengthy, but accurate response. I am not nearly as versed as you in this matter, but I agree with almost everything you put forth in your response. I too, feel that the author and those he is praising, tends to forget that all of the money we "save" is not being paid to someone whose livelihood is/was attached, even tangentially, to the transportation industry (i.e. insurance providers, healthcare providers, or car part producers). With all the people's lives being saved through autonomous vehicle use, who is going to feed, clothe and educate all the people who would not be here otherwise? Reducing/eliminating accidents would create a population expansion of nearly 1.3 million people per year. I think our society is focused on efficiency at the detriment of those who are unable to keep-up.

  10. Walt
    June 8, 2017 at 6:39 pm

    I think the re-employment argument for workers displaced by automation ignores the fact that by definition, half of Americans have a below average IQ. There's nothing wrong with that, it's just a fact. Unfortunately, jobs displaced by automation are going to disproportionately affect those with below average IQ, and there is no easy path for these folks to get re-employed in "knowledge worker" jobs. The hard truth is that society will soon be bifurcated into those who have a high enough IQ plus the economic position to get the education and training needed to conceptualize, design, build, and maintain highly sophisticated systems, and "everyone else". The problem is that everyone else will not have jobs, and will be inclined to be angry and frustrated about their lot in life.

    • TamD
      September 22, 2017 at 6:22 am

      The opiates crisis is just the thin edge of the wedge on this.

  11. F Uber
    March 19, 2017 at 1:38 pm

    I can't wait for the day computers write the articles, leaving journalists to slurp at the trough alongside the rest of us minions.

    • Cookie Rojas
      April 6, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Thank you Fuber. That was sublime.

    • Brian Johnson @sobertime_Rx
      August 27, 2017 at 12:12 am

      They already do...to an extent...read my post

  12. Defend your dignity
    March 7, 2017 at 11:51 am

    If retracing people is soooo easy and that's ok. Let one robot come on line for every one Human retrained. It takes years to retrain .Educated idiots. Some life sucking professional liar was paid to write a happy feel good article to make the end of humanity sound good. So some tech giant can become a trillion air at The expense of a POOR WORKING MAN

  13. Hal the robot
    March 6, 2017 at 9:35 am

    Tell me exactly where the 75,000 cab drivers in NYC are going to work . Be specific. Prove out your foolish theory

  14. Hal the robot
    March 6, 2017 at 9:29 am

    Every lost job is a nail in the coffin of the economy ( lost taxes to support schools medical social services money put back into the economy ) a nail in the coffin of humanity: people : need to work to feel useful foefilled without work people will be in dispair. You educated people have almost destroyed the middle class with globalization ( which put us 20 trillion in debt.) Theiry and real life circumstances are two different scenarios . Let the. Carnage of humanity begin! Your fools

  15. Michael
    February 11, 2017 at 6:48 pm

    Overall, your case seems to make sense, but some comments do point out valid concerns like some loss of independence / privacy (to address that, I think we just need to make sure that people can still choose whether to drive themselves or use a self driving vehicle). One major point that you brought up, but then did not really address is the 4 mil jobs loss (and if we think about actual labor force, it is a much greater percent than 1+% of population mentioned). While all the savings and efficiencies are definitely awesome, what will those 4mil people actually do to make money?? What jobs could they do instead? Tech might work for a fraction of those folks, but what the reamining majority will do is still a huge unaddressed point.

    • Defend your dignity
      March 7, 2017 at 11:53 am

      I think we need to stop automation right now. And right now and save our dignity worth and values as a civilization.

      • Cookie Rojas
        April 6, 2017 at 4:21 pm

        That comment was unoriginal in 18,000 years ago 2 days after the advent of the atlatl.

  16. C F
    January 28, 2017 at 4:58 pm

    Most of the people who drive like it, because it gives them a feeling of independence. It also has been an accomplishment everyone looks forward to. It's like getting a diploma for learning to operate and drive a car.
    It's a symbol that you are growing up, and makes people happy to drive for themselves. It's like some communists countries that don't have a right to choose what they want to do. Making people stop driving for themselves is not right and being forced on us. I think it should be up to the people to have a choice, and not made by millionaires and computer nerds. Taking the privilege to drive will decrease self worth by telling them they're to stupid to drive, destroy to many jobs, and threaten everyone's privacy. I am sure I could find millions who agree with me.

    • Oh Hyeonmin
      January 29, 2017 at 5:12 am

      Remember, it's not about the individual drivers themselves. but about that CEO or that manager of the taxi, transport, or the insurance company that wants to save money by reducing the rate of the accident going down. Which will result in making them think about autonomous vehicles replacing human drivers which they will eventually fall into because it will save them so much money.

  17. LJK
    January 21, 2017 at 4:51 pm

    Two things.

    Every bit of economic saving mentioned in this article is someone's job. I'm not saying we need accidents so that body shops can have work, just that the job losses to be dealt with include the service jobs associated with those savings.

    Second, what alternative work is safe from automation? The patent office will not close when all of the manufacturing and driving is done by robots. We are working our way up the brain chain. First animals, then drudges, then skilled but repetitive workers, then judgement workers, then creative thinkers. What job can a Watsonized robot not do? What won't Watson's progeny, maybe programmed by Watson, not do? Once a 3D printer can print parts that a robot can assemble into a 3D printer, who needs us?

  18. Jim
    January 14, 2017 at 11:38 am

    This article grossly underestimates the number of jobs lost and doesn't address the biggest downside which is loss of freedom. Just as smartphones provide convenience in exchange for loss of privacy, autonomous cars will take away any freedom of movement privacy that you have left. You can only imagine the control over our lives that governments and corporations will try to assert with this capability.

  19. TDBirmingham
    January 14, 2017 at 2:46 am

    Artificial intelligence will endanger most jobs. There will be no need for drivers, pilots, teachers, cooks, servers, clerks, manufacturing workers, etc, etc, etc. The question is where can you work?

  20. Frederic
    December 28, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    What we are likely to see with driverless vehicles (not just cars but taxis, limousines, buses and delivery vans) is what happed with the de-inustrialization due to trade agreements and automation. Private industries benefitted and dumped the consequences on the struggling public and non-profit sectors of the economy. Do the Googles and Ubers have any responsibility for the economic (and likely social and political) upheaval the changes driverless vehicles are likely to bring? If so, how can society ensure that this responsibility is met (taxes might be one way). Up to about the 1970s or '80s automation was seen as almost unmitigated progress; the past couple of decades have taught us this is not at all the case. I believe the biggest challenge of the next 30 years will be ensuring decent incomes, economic opportunities and social value for the millions more people whose jobs will be replaced by driverless cars and other technological progress.

    • TamD
      September 22, 2017 at 6:30 am

      Google's commercial model is based on advertising. Advertising is only of interest to people, because if machines take over but don't have wants, what will they buy. But even if machines became conscious, and had wants, why would they need ads, they would be capable of a more rational and linear approach to consumption. Ads are based on the idea that we don't know what our needs are; that we don't know what products we can get to meet them; that we can be conned into satisfying those wants that the advertiser puts in front of us, even if we might have more rational, or primary needs.

  21. Ryan
    November 28, 2016 at 7:27 pm

    This is the inevitable reality we face as many new technologies ripple through the economy and endanger the occupations of yesteryear. However, we do not have to assume that this will lead to un-employment. Allow us to be more optimistic than that and see the potential that it will lead to re-employment. Redistribution of time, energy and effort is a beautiful aspect of technological advancement. If we can use technology to help society perform the jobs that many people don’t want to do then we can redirect that entire workforce towards a purpose that benefits mankind in a much more profound way. This could enable many capable young minds to be directed towards fields such as science, environmental science, medicine, teaching, mathematics and engineering—just to name a few. The potential is incredible and could lead to an entire paradigm-shift in the way we operate our world economies, in turn allowing us to create a vastly better way of living.

    • Lucy
      January 20, 2017 at 2:36 pm

      I think the idea that driverless cars are better for us is that it will cause our economy to fail, because of joblessnes. Nobody has a plan how they will ensure that those put out of work will be able to find other employment. Most people will have no way to earn an income do to driverless cars. The ripple effect will be felt by many who have jobs related to the car industry, and countless others. Humans are being treated like dummies who should not be able to make decisions for themselves. Humans are the ones who have programmed computers, and now they're taking away our freedom and independence by forcing us to give up driving for ourselves. It's almost a form of communism like China where their is no freedom to choose. It's also a way to spy on people and destroy privacy. I think it should be up to the people being affected to decide whether they want to own and continue to drive for themselves, not big companies trying to become millionaires at our expense and detrimental destruction of jobs.

    • TamD
      September 22, 2017 at 6:37 am

      Yeah Ryan, but that won't happen. There really isn't anything pushing that. Look what the AI is doing on task one. They are targeting the largest job sector in the US, and blowing it up. They want to privatize one of the few public spheres we have less. It is a combo of the best of 80s privatization and job destruction, with the best of the future of technology. And even Elon Musk is stuck pushing it, the only one of the high tech monsters out there who has a bottom up approach based on the public good, if his back story is to be believed. Zuckerberg, in contrast, started out setting up his network as a means towards sexually harassing girls.

      The darker view is AI will actually destroy humanity directly. And if you hear Musk describe that eventuality, the possibility of stopping that is already at best a long shot.

    • Brad P
      January 20, 2018 at 6:43 pm

      Let's just say all of those people (I have seen figures as high as 75 million people world wide) could retrain for the fields you speak of. What do you think the pay will be for those jobs when there are so many people doing them? Supply and demand will make them virtually worthless in the market.

  22. Eliezer
    October 26, 2016 at 6:45 am

    So going on a macro level, we are pretty much gonna put millions of people out of work with automated fast food and self driving vehicles and worker less factory's , yes lets celebrate the fact that we are seriously cutting jobs out of the market lets celebrate putting a bunch of people in to poverty, lets celebrate making people obsolete, hell lets just barbque all these obsolete people on an automated grill. Its for the benefit of humanity right? "Its only growing pains.....as long as I get my espresso in the morning and my craft brew in the evening, these growing pains wont affect me because I'm important, screw all those victims of the growing pains they aren't necessary they are just a part of the past, they don't deserve to make a living so they can take care of their families, their not smart they have no place in this new smart economy." Yeah writer of above article you sound like a douche, and I hope they do make writing robots to replace you

    • Miki M.
      December 15, 2016 at 1:33 am

      Amen to that! Such a perfect utopia.. Yeah right. Like every professional driver woke up and said "Yeah I could nail that Ph.D in a heartbeat but I would rather slum it in a serviuce job. "Divert minds to higher goals.. Well excuse me but like it or not some people are simply not equipped to function in cerebnral fields.

      One cerebral field the author left out. Lots of work in the hacking business. Fancy that, hack into an entire "hive" of cars and demand "Uber-bucks" -- payable in lovely, untraceable Bitcoin or Z-Cash. Yep, let's let the machines do overything.

      Not to mention these wonderful new machines are going to cost a fortune for a great length of time after they are introduced, leaving these things for those who have, well, a fortune to spend.

      Smoke some more dope and worship at the altar of Man and His Marvelous machines. We got over 1400 waterlogged ghosts floating around the rust-pile remnants of Titanic to join you. And make no mistake, these machines which are to replace fallible humans-- will be designed and made by fallible humans.

      • jr23
        February 20, 2017 at 10:42 pm

        not to mention it will trend to be a monopoly instead of the dozen car co we can choose now the leasing co will build there own or a single co to build and then they can charge what they can extort
        and too they will do demand charging like uber and luft do now a 10 buck trip could wind up a 200 trip when you want to go home.

    • Rich
      January 6, 2017 at 4:52 pm

      I wholeheartedly share your concerns, but by attacking the author you're making a Straw Man argument. Firstly, just because he doesn't cover how the problems of technological unemployment should be dealt with, it doesn't mean he advocates the attitude you suggest. It's just not within the scope of this particular article. Secondly, aside from a quip about automated writing robots, the article is specifically about automated vehicles. This isn't just about saving companies and their customers a bit of money - it will have almost unimaginable social, environmental and economic benefits.

      Although he doesn't explicitly state it, it is clear that he believes society as a whole should benefit enough to shoulder the economic burden and compensate the unemployed with ease. As do I. There is no need for anyone to be financially worse off in the wake of autonomous vehicles - if they are, then it is a failure of society.

      Employment also provides less tangible benefits which can't simply be compensated by money - a sense of worth for example. But as people have more free time and more disposable income due to reduced transport costs, other jobs will inevitably be created.... probably not in the field of theoretical physics or mathematics as someone above suggested, but certainly in the services industry where people prefer the human touch.

      Also, although the pace of development of the technology is rapid, there is enough inertia to prevent things changing overnight. Even if the technology and legislation were in place right now to allow fully autonomous vehicles without any back-up driver, it could still be 10 years before they were ubiquitous. In this time, about 20% of current professional drivers will have already retired, and anyone replacing them won't be under the illusion that driving is a job for life.

      • TamD
        September 22, 2017 at 6:45 am

        "it will have almost unimaginable social, environmental and economic benefits."

        That is because articles like this only look at the positive side. Once you uncouple drivers from cars, the number of cars is set to rise enormously, even if only because of reasons that the writer actually covered, like kids and the elderly having cars. It will depend on regulation, but the potential of bot vehicles is such that they could be like a solid band of steel, after all people aren't in them or they are not focused on speed. You could have 5 or ten cars per person out there. It is naive to believe that the people pushing all of this are in favour of fewer cars, that is now their core business. They want to blow out the current producers in transportation, and restructure it one a pay to play model, then environment and all that claptrap is not the point

    • hedeon
      January 8, 2017 at 2:22 pm

      We have started this process thousands years ago with invention of the wheel. This is our nature, maximum profit with minimum effort. But that’s how entire universe works. Peoples jobs where replaced throughout entire history of human civilization, thanks to technological progress. For example how many smiths, or monastery scribes do you know? And yet people are not somewhat poorer or otherwise worse off. In fact we live better lives than people from when monastery scribes and smiths were around. Longer and healthier lives. We are still around!
      If I was professional driver right now, I would be thinking really hard bout requalification right now. In fact, emerging self-driving cars is only reason why I have not become truck driver 6 years ago. Since then I was advising all my friends to leave it. Same I say to those on supermarket tills.
      But the fact is it is coming for all our jobs. Sooner or later, all our jobs will be replaced by computers, including author of this article. That is the end of the path we have stepped in to thousands years ago.... With no jobs will be no money, but if everything is produced by machines powered through renewable energy, cost of anything will be close to zero. People will not need to work to live.
      The problem is not technology, but the fact that we are using outdated economic system which has almost nothing to do with our environment and technological advances.
      I am sorry for you if you are one of those to lose your job, but I find your arguments a little hypocritical. You argue that our conformism is killing jobs and yet you are righting this on computer in response to online article. Do you know how many jobs were replaced because of invention of thing such a computer??? Just because you like to read articles online, instead published on paper, sold by news agents? Aren’t you feeling a little bit like douche? Because you are one of those who is burning people on a barbecue. To change that you should stop using computers, telephone, internet, car, hot water, supermarkets, etc…. All the way back to wheel…

      • TamD
        September 22, 2017 at 6:53 am

        Hypocrisy is a poor argument because to start with it is actually how we manage change. We have feet in two streams at once. There is that kind of hypocrisy, the torn aspect, but the other is the person who knowingly manipulates and deceives and that kind of hypocrisy is corrosive. I find mostly liberals make accusations of hypocrisy because they are fluid on values and like pointing out any inconsistencies in the positions of people caught in their culture wars.

        By the way, I know lots of people who loved letter writing, and everything about it, but if some other person comes along and makes it so a letter can not as once be used to invite someone to tea in the afternoon, takes 10 days to travel a thousand miles, you have to use the computer because the postal service has been defunded in NA for decades. And was actually one of the first things to be handled by computerization.

  23. David Tanner
    October 25, 2016 at 1:40 am

    How will self driving cars determine the appropriate place to park from the inappropriate place to park? For example, you go to the beach in your privately owned AV. You get dropped off and instruct your car to park. It finds a parking spot in a nearby commercial parking lot (reserved for customers only). How will a restaurant owner know if the cars parked in his parking lot belong to his customers?

    • TamD
      September 22, 2017 at 6:56 am

      One way that the optimists on the environment have not considered is by circling the block. They believe that in general cars will drop you, and go elsewhere. They don't want you having one at all. But some services like couriers, currently need humans, and so Brown could have a guy taking the parcel for a signature, while his car circles the block. No current tech is going to be clean. Batteries don't last that long.

  24. Tigger
    September 25, 2016 at 7:55 am

    Always interesting how this technology is great when the writer or purveyor of the technology is not the one to loose THEIR jobs. Like the old adage: "when your neighbor looses their job, it is a recession; when you loose your job it is a depression." Someone will have to pay for the unemployment/welfare/retraining for the four million loosing their jobs. This is not to mention the tremendous social cost of higher crime and mental illness. Be careful what you wish for.

    • Joel Lee
      September 29, 2016 at 12:58 am

      That's a good point, Tigger. If the loss of my job meant the advancement of society, it would be a tough pill to swallow and I probably wouldn't be one of its heralds. But I mean, I'd have to adapt or get left behind, right?

    • GR
      October 9, 2016 at 2:30 pm

      And the middle class shrinks yet again. Those that had a comfortable living in manufacturing / trades are now faced with unemployment and third world workers performing their jobs. Companies that are bringing to market employment removal technology and/or moving jobs to third world counties will inevitably reach a point where the vast majority is unemployed and those few counties with employment are so underpaid there are no customers for their products or services. Education and therefore employment is only for the rich err Lords err Masters. One giant unified global fart!

  25. peter
    September 10, 2016 at 8:39 pm

    im warning all the total ripple effect will throw a wrench into the wheels of our economy we could head for a disaster this is the last great big automation , as mentioned by comments above and below its not just drivers it goes all the way to car salesmen, court clerks lawyers insurance sales people etc.. its going to be a disaster unless we change our economy completely we cant even agree to free healthcare.. but in the future economy we will have to consider free things cause many I mean many will be unemployed this will be a nation of haves and have nots like the movie Elysium ... the next ten years will be insane be ready yall be ready

  26. Zesty
    August 18, 2016 at 2:01 pm

    What about car dealers, people won't need to buy cars anymore, so how about those jobs at dealerships, auto mechanic jobs, discount tire, will be reduced because this system makes the system more efficient and more reliable, thus less failures. If car accidents are reduced drastically, besides auto body repair why do we need auto insurance if that is no passed onto Uber and the like.

    How about the multi billion dollar industry of DWI/DUI, all the cities states wont have that anymore, so lets cut the police and fire department, attorneys, court clerks, and prison system guards etc.

    Why would you need gas stations or their attendants if you don't own a car anymore? Now you can lay off a lot of the auto claims adjusters and insurance processors and agents.

    It really will become a domino effect across the nation. Basically, the united states will become a third world country in 10 years if this goes mainstream by 2020 like they all are planning.

    The net gain is way below the net loss on American Dream. A lot of food for thought.

    • Tigger
      September 25, 2016 at 7:57 am

      The race to the bottom continues.... I really have a hard time believing that the pushers of this technology do not care so much about saving lives as they do filling their pockets.

    • TamD
      September 22, 2017 at 6:58 am

      Basically the auto industry was America, culturally, recreationally, and a huge catalyst for jobs. That has been in decline for years, but this is the death nell.

  27. escape artyst
    May 13, 2016 at 7:30 pm

    This article did not sufficiently counter balance the concern over unemployment as stated in the title. Rather the writer extoled the benefits to the remaining members of society who have the money to pay for the aforementioned convenience. Such remarks are easy to say for those who will not be without employment. This is where we might begin discussions about a welfare state, however my naivete has its limits. US CITIZENS are about to know poverty and violence as well as their 3rd world cousins. Oblige has been labeled unnecessary, wasteful and an affront to the American ideal. Open revolt is a risk the powerful are willing to take, it seems. Woe be to today's children. They will suffer greatly. Many of them will live and die in a world of violence as they will no longer be able to fill a raison d'être. Why bother keeping them around?
    Tax the rich or eliminate the poor.
    Sleep well.

    • D fisher
      August 19, 2016 at 9:28 am

      I agree, also with the loss of jobs, and if people can't find a job, guess what, this is where the stealing and stuff comes into.play and possibly hurting others to get more eyes just to get by!

  28. Robert j clesfed
    April 22, 2016 at 8:02 am

    Common sense the United States economy it doesn't really on autonomous. How about the danger of self driving car, what we do when the senser breaks, What happens when the camera freeze, what happened snow on the road , what happens all the road sign are covered with snow,autonomous car all they do is drive they don't see like human eyes, human can make a better dissension in everything.so as human I like to control my car it's 100% safer then senser.

    • Davy
      May 12, 2016 at 5:08 am

      You're wrong about so many things. I work in this field. Humans are 100% more likely to make a driving error than an automated vehicle. If ANY issue arises with the operation of the vehicle it is immediately stopped and another automated vehicle will come along to pick you up. The automated vehicles will be able to attach to each other (fully automated) and tow as many as 5 other cars at the moment creating up to a 14% increase in fuel efficiency. They will have a 120MPH Highway speed limit. I believe the only reason you assume it's safer for a human to drive is because you don't understand the technology.

      Humans are very smart. We can invent a machine to complete any task we do manually at dizzying speeds.

      • TamD
        September 22, 2017 at 7:05 am

        Yeah, the technology will be there sooner rather than later. One thing people don't seem to talk about is that you could go slower, as you aren't driving. Currently I have a few huge seasonal drives. They are always a stress, and one keeps the pedal down in hope of shortening the travel time. But I could cut the speed by 20 percent if I didn't have to sweat it. If I could drink, watch movies, party.

        Right now, probably half the people on the road, exposed to the danger, are there to drive. Taking kids places, everyone in the car at once because one person needs to go there, and the rest can't be left along. Or all the commercial drivers. Get those people off the road, and even if rates of fatal accidents doubled, there would be far lower losses. Above I gave the example of a routine thing we did where we had to put in 7 person trips to get one person to college. So you could have 7 accidents killing the one, to add up to the one accident that killed 7.

    • JR
      June 21, 2016 at 10:56 am

      Robert, in due time, the concerns that you raise will all be worked out. The thing is to prepare for the inevitable. The fact that the idea of automation has already being considered means its just a matter of time.

      • Lucy
        January 20, 2017 at 2:53 pm

        I hope not!
        Stop replacing all jobs with computers, and destroying the workers in the United States.
        This is a selfish way to create millions for the inventors of the driverless cars, while the citizens who have work because people can drive will be jobless and poor.

  29. Waterguy
    April 6, 2016 at 8:56 am

    How is it that driverless vehicles are good for the environment is "particularly poignant" (evoking a sense of sadness or pity; keenly distressing to the feelings)? I would think that fact would be "particularly uplifting" or "particularly hopeful" or - if what the writer was going for was cheap alliteration - "particularly promising."

    What concerns me is the displacement of low-education workers. Despite the writer's happy chat about "unemployment rather than unemployment," recent experience suggests that low-education workers who lose their jobs don't find new jobs all that quickly (Detroit auto workers, steel mill workers,etc.).

    • Davy
      May 12, 2016 at 5:09 am

      The automated vehicle revolution is set to eliminate 45% of jobs. It will be an interesting time.

  30. Anonymous
    June 19, 2015 at 8:29 pm

    "They’ll make travel cheaper and safer."
    I'll grant you "safer", but not "cheaper". Car prices have been only going up. Any time the manufacturers add any new gizmo or safety feature, they use it as an excuse to jack up price of the car goes up by four figures. The only way driverless cars will be "cheaper" is if they continue to resemble overgrown Kozy Koups and most of the features we have become accustomed to over time are removed.

    "In total, that’s a little over 4 million American jobs put at risk"
    That may be a little over 1% of the population but what percentage of the work force is it? Let's not forget that while driverless cars eliminate much of the auto-related jobs, automation in other fields will also be eliminating jobs. So the impact on unemployment will be larger than just the 4 million.

    "this change will tend result in reemployment rather than unemployment"
    According to whom? And reemployment as what? You glibly skipped the answers and proceeded to talk about the economic benefits of driverless vehicles.

    • Jordet
      August 26, 2016 at 4:39 am

      Safer AND cheaper as we move away from the traditional car ownership model. Why own when you can have access 24/7? Pay/Ride and subscription fees will be the new model starting at $.25/mile. This will eliminate the worst aspects of driving!

      Car payments, insurance, parking tickets, Maintenance, traffic, searching for parking spaces, speeding tickets, drunk driving, car washes, accidents, etc.

      Each autonomous vehicle will take the place of 15 cars.

      These driverless cars will be electric charged with solar energy.

      Most parking lots will become prime real estate and repurposed.

      "Oil, nuclear, natural gas, Coal, electric utilities, And conventional cars Will be obsolete by 2030"

      ~Tony Seba

      source: Clean Disruption Of Energy And Transportation by Tony Seba

      • ab
        October 9, 2016 at 2:38 pm

        and who will use this service when everyone is unemployed and penny-less?

      • Jim
        January 14, 2017 at 11:21 am

        If one automated car replaces 15 self driving cars, who gets evacuated in florida when a hurricane comes, can the car operate in high winds and hail that obscure signs and traffic lights?

    • peter
      September 10, 2016 at 8:43 pm


    • Tigger
      September 25, 2016 at 8:02 am

      All these people talking about the benefits of something that has not even been perfected yet. Regarding people giving up their cars for a subscription to Uber or other ride share farce, sorry. Americans- including myself- are too selfish to give up their cars. I want my own car, not a pod that may have been vomited in or dirtied before I got in, and I do not feel like lugging books and bags and other personal belongings from the pod to the house and back again. $.25 a mile is not a bargain if someone lives 50 miles from their workplace like many people do in LA, Chicago, Detroit, etc.

      • Brian
        March 5, 2017 at 11:28 pm

        I see mass unemployment poverty like you've never seen alcohol and drug addiction rampant. Your fools. We have 10 million adult males who've lost out to free trade. If everyone who performed a task that a robot is capable of loses their job. Whose going to pay into state federal social security taxes . Slums crime and then the Ilya rich. The new world order. Let theHunger games begin

      • Brian
        March 5, 2017 at 11:33 pm

        How much in taxes will the cloud contribute to society. As much money gained as lost?