Innovation

81% of Americans believe driverless vehicles will kill jobs for professional drivers

The Pew Research Center recently found that many US adults believe most cars will be driverless in the future, but they still won't ride in them.

The advent and growth of autonomous and self-driving vehicles could bring about many positive changes in the lives of commuters and businesses alike, but it could also come with some negative consequences. According to Pew research, 81% of American believe that these technologies will cause many professional drivers to lose their jobs.

This research, which came from the Pew Research Center's Internet and Technology division, also showed that the aforementioned belief was held by a very diverse group of people. Both men and women across a range of ages, levels of education, and awareness of the driverless trend all felt that the many jobs would be disrupted by this technology.

While driverless cars will undoubtedly impact taxi and limo drivers, for example, the industry that is most likely to feel the immediate effects is the trucking industry. Right now, there are about 3.5 million truck drivers in the US, and a "strong undercurrent of denial" in the trucking industry that automation will replace jobs, according to a Guardian report.

SEE: IT leader's guide to the future of autonomous vehicles (Tech Pro Research)

Despite that denial, driverless trucking is expected to come to fruition soon, and millions of those jobs could be at risk. The potential savings in both labor costs and fuel efficiency may be too good for some companies to pass up.

Even if trucks don't become fully driverless, new platooning technology allows a single lead human driver to command a platoon of three or four driverless trucks that follow his or her lead. Trials for this platoon technology are expected in the UK as early as 2018.

However, this disruption of the trucking industry may not come as soon as some want it to. Teamsters have been lobbying in Washington against certain bills that would greenlight driverless vehicles. And an early September bill that aimed to speed the development of such vehicles had an exemption for vehicles over 10,000 pounds, including large commercial trucks.

Still, the conversation is ongoing. The US Senate recently gave the green light to another bill aimed at supporting the use of self-driving cars. But, only time will tell of the bill will extend to heavy trucks.

The impact is expected to be broad, with roughly two-thirds of Americans believing that most automobiles will be driverless in the next 50 years, Pew found. Despite this belief, 56% of US adults said that they wouldn't want to ride in a driverless car if given the chance.

The 3 big takeaways for TechRepublic readers

  1. According to Pew Research, some 81% of Americans believe that driverless vehicles will eliminate jobs for many professional drivers.
  2. Driverless and semi-driverless trucks are being developed and trialled by numerous tech companies in the US, but the Teamsters have been lobbying against bills that would support their development.
  3. Despite two-thirds of Americans believing that most automobiles will be driverless in the next 50 years, some 56% said they don't want to ride in such vehicles.

Also see

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Image: iStockphoto/chombosan

About Conner Forrest

Conner Forrest is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. He covers enterprise technology and is interested in the convergence of tech and culture.

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