The Strategist

Self-driving cars may deprive about 4.1 million drivers of their jobs

09/16/2016 - 16:02

When the era of cars without drivers firmly gains a foothold, the world will see terrible consequences. It is not about increased number of accidents, which many fear, but the employment problem, which is sure to come, writes analyst Wolf Richter on Wolf Street blog site.

Michael Shick
Michael Shick
According to the analyst, scale of this problem is enormous. He uses official data to predict that there are about 4.1 million jobs under the threat, including truck drivers, taxi drivers, and car-sharing companies.

All of these people will not be able to switch quickly and start again as programmers. There is no place for them in industrial companies, either. Even fast-food sphere is becoming increasingly automated, along with many other types of work. According to Richter, the changes occur faster than society is willing to encounter them. Yet, no one so far has seriously discussed what could happen next.

Potential savings will outweigh the human cost, as companies vie for profit, the expert said. Spending on drivers are the largest cost item for transport companies, because employees need to take rest and go on vacation. Once they are replaced by autonomous vehicles, the costs will be reduced almost to zero.

Uber, which recently introduced its model of an unmanned vehicle, said it does not intend to completely abandon services of drivers. In the future, the company intends to combine the two types of services. However, even this statement does not reassure Uber drivers, who are not enthusiastic about the prospect of losing their jobs.

"We do not expect that Uber would fully switch to use of unmanned transport in the near future, but they should know that we will begin an aggressive campaign, which they have not seen, to stop such an intention", - said Jim Conigliaro Jr, helped establish Independent Drivers Guild in the US. The organization brings together 35 thousand Uber drivers in New York.

Recall that Uber car service released unmanned taxis in Pittsburgh, USA. However, the company did not completely abandon the human labor. Every car has a driver who will monitor the course of the trip for security reasons. 

Not everyone may take a ride on the unmanned vehicles. Business Insider says such cars are available only for "the most loyal customers". Details of the term "the most loyal customers" were not specified. Uber application just indicates that the user will get an unmanned vehicle.

Passengers can choose only rear sits because the front is already taken by Uber employees. One is watching the wheel and is to take control if anything goes wrong, and another in the front passenger seat is inspecting behavior of the machine.

Rear passengers can see a tablet, which displays information about the trip, and the image "seen" by the car. Additionally, this tablet allows taking selfies, "and it adds confidence", writes The Verge’s journalist Andrew Hawkins. "Who would be afraid of a car which lets you to take a selfie?" - he says.