Tech companies and truck manufacturers are racing to develop self-driving trucks, and many in the transportation industry have been worried about the impact that could have on the human workforce currently hauling our nation’s freight. A new study commissioned by the American Center for Mobility (ACM) says that – for now at least – truckers don’t have to worry about their jobs.
The ACM commissioned the study from Michigan State University and Texas A&M’s Transportation Institute. The goal was to see what effects all types of self-driving vehicles might have on the workforce.
Their conclusion was surprising, even for some at the ACM. While the study did find that drivers of taxis and other smaller vehicles could be heavily impacted, truckers’ jobs will be mostly spared. The study found that “only a modest number of drivers would be displaced, and that wouldn’t happen until the end of the decade.”
One factor is that the researchers don’t expect the technology to be ready for fully autonomous trucks until the end of the 2020s. Until then, they expect self-driving tech to augment a human driver, instead of replace them.
Once the tech is ready, researchers claim that autonomous trucks will be plugging the gap left by the current “driver shortage.” New autonomous trucks won’t be hitting the road fast enough to outpace the need for more capacity.
But the study only examined the next decade. After that, the outlook is a bit bleaker. Into the 2030s, the report indicates that workers may need to be retrained for new jobs.
“In the near-term there is great potential for these technologies to assist commercial drivers in safely operating trucks,” reads a press-release from ACM. “Longer-term it will be important to define, develop, and deliver targeted training for the workforce.”