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Representatives from sectors public and private. Three focus groups in California, Michigan, and Texas. A total of 19 interviews with industry leaders and experts from around the country. Econometric analysis. Qualitative analysis.
All this and more went into a study that predicts the impact autonomous vehicles will have on the workforce over this next decade. The results were recently published as the workforce studies Preparing the Workforce for Automated Vehicles and Truck Platooning State of the Industry 2018.
The report was commissioned by Ypsilanti Township's American Center for Mobility, led by Michigan State University, and supported by Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
While other groups have studied automated vehicles and their potential impact on the workforce, this study is different, says Sheila Cotten, MSU Foundation professor and lead principal investigator on the project.
This workforce study limits its scope to 10 years. While examining a shorter timeframe than other studies, it also provides a more accurate window.
“There’s just so much potential for measurement error past 10 years,” Cotten says, also mentioning that this study separates itself from others by delving into specific categories of the workforce, including long distance trucking, deliveries, taxis, and chauffeurs.
The study suggests automated vehicles will have a positive impact on long distance truck drivers while having a negative impact on taxi drivers.
Regarding taxi services, research shows that people mostly care about only getting from point A to point B, threatening taxi driver jobs in the future.
Long distance truck driving, however, could see a growth in jobs – and safer and more high-quality jobs, at that. Cotten says truck drivers will become truck operators. Driving is an important aspect of long distance hauling, but there are other skills required that would be hard to replace.
“Would a company really want to send $1 million in freight with no one in the cab?” Cotten says. “It’s cheaper to have someone in the vehicle problem-solving than to call and send someone out across the country.”
And with an aging long-distance truck driving population coupled with a preexisting workforce shortage, more high-tech trucks might stoke the interests of tech-savvy younger generations.
Filling talent pipelines, from truck drivers to automated vehicle engineers, is the next critical step.
“For the United States, we have to be more proactive to enhance talent pipelines,” Cotten says. “Everyone from OEMs to universities have to work together to tailor the right education programs.”
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