Will Autonomous Vehicles Bring A Jobless Future? A New MIT Report Says Not So Fast

Conclusion: we’ve got some time, but it’s up to us. Highly automated (so-called “Level 4”) vehicles are at least a decade away from widespread adoption, and are likely to evolve unevenly across regions and geographies. Even trucking, among the most suited to autonomous capabilities, will likely be incrementally affected (partly because the “last few miles” problems of delivery are extremely difficult for robots). Autonomy may well displace some types of workers, but the long lead-time gives us time to adapt. Investments in worker training, for example, can open new opportunities for those who otherwise might go into driving as an occupation; as often happens with automation, some number of physical, manual jobs will transition to behind-the-desk forms of management and monitoring.

Moreover, if creatively imagined as part of larger transit systems — as feeders for mass transit, for example, or as enablers for autonomous buses for under-served areas — autonomy could have a positive impact on how people get to work.