Autonomous Vehicles and Job Loss

Productivity--the ability to produce more with fewer resource inputs--is important because it is directly linked to a rise in living standards. While that might be true at the macro level (whole economies or countries), it is not automatically true at the micro level (particular workers in particular industries and regions).

So consider the impact of autonomous vehicles, perhaps just one example of a worrisome trend, namely technology-caused job destruction.  

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that 758,220 people are employed in general freight trucking, with another 493,870 in warehousing and storage, 457,010 as couriers and express delivery drivers, and 337,530 as specialized freight trucking.

Morgan Stanley estimates that the freight industry stands to save $168 billion annually as a result of autonomous vehicle technology, and that $70 billion of that will come from a reduced wage bill.

There are an additional 173,770 school and employee bus drivers, and 180,960 taxi drivers and chauffeurs.

In total, the Transportation and Material Moving Operations section of the US economy accounts for 9.54 million people, with a mean annual wage of $35,160 – accounting for an estimated wage bill of $335.3 billion.

Autonomous vehicle systems could indicate a 50 percent reduction in that wage bill. As always, a “cost” to one participant in an ecosystem is “revenue” to another.

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