Two items that add nuance to some of the current perceptions about the impact of automation on vehicles, and hence jobs.  


From the New York Times: The Big Tech Trends to Follow 

 Smarter Cars

Self-driving-car enthusiasts like Elon Musk, the chief executive of Tesla, dream of a future where driverless cars eliminate traffic accidents while letting people do work on their commutes.

They can keep dreaming: Autonomous vehicles still have a long way to go before they become safe and properly regulated.

“Your car doesn’t drive itself, at least not reliably for a long period of time,” said Ms. Milanesi of Creative Strategies.

… carmakers like Ford, Hyundai, BMW and Audi are expected to show off the latest improvements to self-driving tech, like smarter parking assistance and less error-prone collision avoidance. These are baby steps toward truly driverless vehicles, but some features may appear in cars in the coming years.

Likely coming sooner is the so-called connected car. Tech and car companies will demonstrate new features for internet-equipped cars, like the ability to pay for parking and gas through a dashboard or cameras that enhance a driver’s side and rear vision. At the trade show, Gentex Corporation, a company that develops car technology, will demonstrate in-vehicle biometrics that scan a driver’s iris to verify his or her identity before turning on the car.


From the Washington Post, by Robert Samuelson:

… truck drivers are often cited as an example of impending job destruction wrought by automation. But the reality is more complicated. A new study by Uber argues that millions of driver jobs will survive well into the future and that the spread of driverless trucks may actually stimulate the need for more — not fewer — drivers.

The explanation lies in the plausible limits of driverless technologies. Here’s what the Uber study says:

“The biggest technical hurdles for self-driving trucks are driving on tight and crowded city streets, backing into complex loading docks and navigating through busy facilities. . . . These maneuvers require skills that will be hard for self-driving trucks to match for a long time.”

Based on this view, Uber argues that the trucking industry will split into two parts. Long-haul transportation over major highways will be performed increasingly by driverless tractor-trailers that will deliver freight to “transfer hubs” on the edges of major cities. There, local workers and drivers will reload the cargoes and make delivery to final customers.

This system, Uber argues, will be more efficient for shippers and more attractive to drivers. The study assumes that “each self-driving truck could do the work of two of today’s trucks because they can operate at all hours of day and night.” Now, trucks spend only about a third of their time on the road. By doubling this, self-driving trucks would cut costs. Lower costs in turn would stimulate more shipping. Combined with normal growth, this would require more drivers, despite the increase in driverless trucks. …

Economist Timothy Taylor, who posted the Uber study on his useful blog (“Conversable Economist”), puts it this way: “A simple ‘technology replaces jobs’ story . . . is always more complex and sometimes even counterintuitive to how it may appear at first.”


Two more implications: autonomous trucks will first be seen, if anywhere, on intercity highways.  So there will be a need for augmented technology on at least one lane – a lane that will likely have to be separated in some way from general traffic (not really an option in dense cities).  

If highways are going to be widened (as Hwy 99 is currently and more of Hwy 1 is proposed), it doesn’t make sense to do it for general-purpose traffic.  Instead, automated vehicles, including transit, only.

And the technology used for ‘connected cars’ can also be used for mobility pricing.  The current proposals coming from the Mobility Pricing Commission assume data will have to be collected externally from the vehicles, not from the vehicles themselves.  Wrong assumption.