WASHINGTON—Concerns about self-driving cars displacing a huge number of semi-skilled workers are overblown and should be balanced against overwhelming potential advantages in cheaper transportation, safety, mobility, productivity and cleaner air, according to a team of economists and transportation scholars.
In a report released June 12, the experts conservatively estimate the annual economic payback from automated vehicles will be $800 billion by 2050, with a cumulative impact of up to $6.3 trillion, mostly from reducing highway crashes and congestion, and freeing commuters to spend time on activities other than driving. The economic benefits likely are much larger, but are difficult to calculate because the full scope of its potential remains unclear at this early stage of development.
The report, "America's Workforce and the Self-Driving Future," recommends governments create an environment enabling companies to rapidly pursue deployment of automated vehicles, while simultaneously preparing the workforce to transition to future jobs that require new skills.
"Due to the large-scale societal benefits from the deployment of AVs, policies to address labor force issues must carefully consider their potential impact in delaying the deployment and thus the benefits of AVs," the study said "Delaying the deployment of AVs would represent a significant and deliberate injury to public welfare.
"Rather than delaying the benefits, policymakers could ensure that the interests of the people who may lose jobs are well protected through effective mitigation programs."
The report was sponsored by Securing America's Future Energy, a group focused on reducing the nation's dependence on oil. Its goal is to quantify the benefits of automated vehicles to help inform policymakers and make sure regulations governing the emerging industry are proportional to any potential risk.
SAFE warned that many reports predicting severe job losses due to AVs tend to concentrate on worst-case scenarios, but many of the concerns are unfounded.