SAFE will be hosting an event on June 13th on the impacts of autonomous vehicles (AVs) on America’s economy and labor market. The release event for “America’s Workforce and the Self-Driving Future” will feature high-profile speakers exploring the scope of benefits associated with self-driving cars, and how policy can help us achieving them. In addition to a fireside chat with J.D. Vance, author of the bestselling memoir Hillbilly Elegy, the event will feature former Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater, Rep. Debbie Dingell (MI-12), Loren Smith of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Jared Bernstein, Senior Fellow at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Uber, the American Trucking Associations, and more. Join us for engaging panel conversations on the path forward for AV policy and how the industry and policymakers can collaborate on transitioning to a new transportation revolution where consumers, businesses, and workers will all prosper. Admiral Dennis Blair (Ret.), former Director of National Intelligence and a member of SAFE’s ESLC, will provide closing remarks.
Contrary to recent commentary warning of massive job losses, the new report says widespread AV adoption would not lead to long-term negative impacts on the labor market.
SAFE’s report, developed in collaboration with leading transportation and labor economists, analyzes important uncertainties surrounding AVs as they move from concept to reality. We believe that the growth of AVs is a critical issue that requires policymaker attention. Self-driving technology has the potential to alter the transportation landscape, significantly reducing petroleum consumption and accelerating the transition to vehicles that run on electricity and other alternatives. In addition, a reduction in traffic accidents, less congestion, and improved access to transportation for the underserved are other positive societal impacts from the adoptions of driverless vehicles. The report estimates that total annual benefits of AVs could possibly reach as high as $800 billion by 2050.
Yet, despite the numerous positives, there are concerns about the impact of driverless vehicles on the U.S. labor market. Will AV technology result in labor displacement? What are some historical examples to show the potential economic and social benefits of AVs? What are possible medium- to long-term effects of vehicle automation on working-class Americans? The authors examine these questions throughout the report.
Contrary to recent commentary warning of massive job losses, the report concludes that widespread AV adoption would not lead to long-term negative impacts on the labor market. There will, of course, be an adjustment period for some workers. The authors highlight how past technological changes have led to sizable economic and public benefits despite short-term challenges such as employers needing skilled labor and some workers requiring retraining. Any losses in wages and employment would occur alongside positive societal impacts. “The benefits of AVs each year are far greater than the cost to workers over the next 35 years combined,” the authors conclude.
“The best pathway to broad American prosperity is through the adoption of policies supporting AV deployment while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the workforce of the future.”
Although the deployment of AVs promises to transform the U.S. economy in ways not seen since the middle of last century, most of the impacts of AVs will not likely be evident until the 2030s and may not reach full effect until the 2040s. As a result, policymakers have significant time to find solutions to possible future workforce dislocations. “The best pathway to broad American prosperity is through the adoption of policies supporting AV deployment while simultaneously laying the groundwork for the workforce of the future,” the report says.
As the transportation system rapidly evolves, unintended consequences could emerge—but the opportunities that lay ahead to enhance economic growth, improve accessibility to low-cost mobility, and increase efficiency and diversity in the vehicle fleet are massive. SAFE hopes that the event and the report foster a broader discussion on AVs and instigate more research on their economic effects. We look forward to continued dialogue on this critical policy area.