As the world progresses further into the realm of artificial intelligence, it is clear that out of our innate desire for innovation will be the beginning of our extinction. Mankind has always been a creator, finding easier ways to accomplish diverse tasks, from ridiculously simple to astoundingly complex activities. The effect of artificial intelligence is already beginning to be felt. By 2030, according to Futurist, over 128 jobs are going to be destroyed by mankind’s ‘greatest accomplishment’ of the 21st century, autonomous cars.
The human race stands to benefit a lot from driverless cars. Of these benefits, minimized traffic collisions (caused by human error), smoother rides, higher speed limits, reduced traffic congestion, and increased roadway capacity. A study conducted has shown that the average car is used approximately only 4% of the day amounting to merely 58 minutes daily. This makes cars an incredible abuse of resources. One can only imagine the chaos if all cars were to be on the road at the same time.
Another often-highlighted benefit of self-driving cars has been a reduction in labor costs. Yet this benefit is highly subjective. The rise of autonomous vehicles would bring to dearth a long list of job descriptions and render jobless millions. While the next two decades can be said to be a transitory phase for automated cars, it is one that the world would need a lot of adapting to. The hardest part of the transitory process would be in the labor sector.
Before delving into what the human race stands to lose from autonomous vehicles, we have to be clear as to the true picture of the environment fully autonomous cars will exist in. There is a distinction between a driverless car and a fully autonomous vehicle. While a driverless/ self-driving car strictly applies to a car without drivers, autonomous vehicle encompasses self-driving farm equipment, self-driving off road vehicles, and self-driving trucks. Now in a fully autonomous car 15 years from now, you should be able to summon a car with your smartphone and have it appear within 2 minutes. The automated car then whisks you off to your destination, saving you the time, energy and financial resources of owning and using your own car. The same applies to self-driving farm equipment and self-driving trucks. You should be able to relax knowing that your self-driving farm equipment have tilled the soil, applied fertilizer and harvested the yields.
It is in this environment that we would witness some of the greatest job cuts in recent times. The need for drivers to wit: taxi drivers, Uber and Lyft drivers, drivers for specialty vehicles (such as truck drivers, Forklift drivers, lawnmower operators, snowplow operators, water taxies, and ambulance drivers), construction and farm equipment vehicle drivers. The entire car sales industry is also going to undergo a metamorphosis in such an environment as we move from owned to shared vehicles. Hence, the likelihood of the disappearance of jobs such as auto sales, account managers, auto auctions, credit managers, loan underwriters, insurance claims adjusters, insurance agents and sales reps and insurance call center agents. Driving schools will also disappear with their entire workforce. So also, would the car licensing and registration, and car rental industry. Valets and chauffeurs would become an exotic memory.
The entire vehicle manufacturing industry would be transformed and certain vehicle parts disregarded. Talking GPS, steering wheels, driver dashboards, spare tires, license plates, seatbelts, and odometers will not be a feature of fully autonomous cars. This will in turn affect the vehicle repair industry with auto repair and body shops, car parts sales outlets set for extinction. The massive parking infrastructure would dwindle and most police departments would shrink to a tiny fraction of their present size.
The economic impact of these massive job losses is stupendous. The Auto industry is one of the strongest forces in the economy of most industrialized countries. In the United States alone, the automobile production and maintenance industry employs 4.1 million people. Automakers sold cars worth $570 billion dollars to Americans in 2015 alone. Almost a half-million people in the United States work in the taxi and limousine service. Over 250,000 persons working in the courier and delivery industry are also set to lose their jobs as fully autonomous vehicles take over. With over 8.9 million truckers and specialized drivers set to be affected autonomous vehicles, approximately 15 million people will lose their jobs in the United States alone. The impact would equally be felt in all the industrialized countries across Europe, Asia and parts of South America.
The economic benefits of fully autonomous vehicles would be impact other areas, such as the health industry, reduce the cost of running various businesses and governmental establishments focused on regulating owned vehicles. Savings in this area could be invested in more productive aspects of our economy.
Irrespective of the presupposed benefits autonomous vehicles will provide, trillions of dollars will be lost in the process. Millions of persons would be forced to find alternate ways of earning a living, and global economies would have to adjust. So the trillion-dollar question for you, the reader is: Is it really worth it?