Autonomous trucks have been in the development stage for the last few years.
DETROIT — It’s been long speculated that autonomous driving technology will widely displace one of the most common jobs in the U.S., truck drivers.
Goldman Sachs, for instance, predicts that as autonomous vehicle technology peaks, as many as 25,000 trucker jobs could be eliminated per month or about 300,000 annually. But a new workforce study from the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti Township is saying: Hit the brakes.
The study, commissioned by ACM and led by Michigan State University and the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, concludes that automated technology will “largely support truck drivers instead of replacing them” for the next decade.
There are nearly 3.5 million professional truckers in the U.S. Michigan’s $927 million truck industry supports more than 215,000 jobs (not all truck drivers) or about 1 in 17 jobs in the state, according to the Michigan Trucking Association. And the industry is plagued by a trucker shortage — the American Trucking Associations projects the industry is short 50,000 new drivers annually to meet increased demand.
Truck platooning — where a lead truck driven by a human is linked to two or more trucks in convoy using connected and autonomous technology — is expected to be the prominent use of this new technology in the trucking industry. This, the study says, will create more support jobs.
Shelia Cotton, the MSU professor who led the research, said in a press release that while automated vehicle technology won’t eliminate jobs, it will shift workforce demands.
“… this level of advanced technology has the potential to lead to the creation of thousands of new jobs in the engineering, data analysis, cybersecurity and vehicle ‘monitoring’ areas,” Cotten said in the press release.
Reinventing the Truck
Electrification, autonomous technologies, stringent regulations, the next 20 years can expect major change across the transportation and energy sectors. With the global trucking industry consuming 35% of the world’s gas/oil demand the stakes are huge. These disruptions may significantly affect multiple industries.
The report points to the need for more education and training to facilitate the rapid changes in the trucking industry, according to Christopher Poe, assistant director for Connected and Automated Transportation Strategy with the Texas A&M Transportation Institute.
“In the near-term there is great potential for these technologies to assist commercial drivers in safely operating trucks. Longer-term it will be important to define, develop, and deliver targeted training for the workforce,” Poe said in a press release.
The study notes that there may be displacement among passenger car-based driving jobs, particularly taxi drivers, by the late 2020s, when large numbers of autonomous vehicles are expected to be deployed.