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Technology takes the wheel

January 23, 2018

Yuma Urfi

Yuma Urfi

The autonomous vehicles seem to promise a bright future. With software on wheels we will drive into an eco friendly, space saving and time efficient world. However, is the idea economically as beneficial as it seems on the technical front?

In 2015, 15.5 million workers were employed in occupations that would be affected (to different degrees) by the introduction of automated vehicles. However, our primary focus revolves around the motor vehicle operators. 3.1 million in number, truck drivers will face the bulk of the job loss caused due to automation.

According to a Goldsman Sachs Economic Research, “when autonomous vehicle saturation peaks, U.S. drivers could see job losses at a rate of 25,000 a month, or 300,000 a year.”

What’s concerning is that many of these workers who face the brunt of the change are unskilled, low educated workers who will have difficulty finding a new job in the work force. Moreover, the rampantly increasing costs of re-training and gaining education will prevent these workers from resuming work.

On the bright side, the companies can save on labor, which represents an estimated 34% of operational costs per mile. Morgan Stanley conservatively estimates that the freight industry could save as $168 billion annually by harnessing autonomous technology – $70 billion of which would come from reducing staff.

Moreover, we will save lives by reducing the risk of accidents that are caused by casualties on the drivers’ ends. Crashes involving large trucks killed 3,903 people in the US in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and a further 110,000 people were injured. More than 90% of the accidents were caused at least in part by driver error.

And the fun fact is that we get more time to ourselves. According to a recent study, the average american spends about 101 minutes driving each day. Assuming we start driving around the age of 17, we spend a whopping 37,935 hours driving around in our car. With autonomous cars we can sit back, relax and have that time to ourselves while someone else, or nobody else technically, drives us to places.

The shift will lead to significant impacts on employment, welfare and universal income. But eventually the world moves on – once taxi drivers became Uber drivers, now let’s see where our future is headed.

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