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“Driverless Cars: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…”

“Driverless Cars: The Good, The Bad and The Ugly…”

      Driverless cars are coming to the streets and highways sooner than later. Despite the legal wrangling between Google and Uber over the technology itself, it is predicted by some that 60% of cars on the road in the next 10 years will be driverless, although no one knows for sure.

      This is good news for consumers but bad news for the economy and certain industries.  For consumers, this technology means reduced fuel costs, less collisions and less labor costs.  Adding to this, the stress of driving for some people can be sometimes overwhelming.   Once driverless car technology is refined, it may even affect the pharmaceutical industry with people needing less medication as well as potentially less doctor visits, although this remains to be seen.

      The other side of the coin is the economy. Various industries will be negatively impacted by this disruption in the way transportation is used. Below are two areas that driverless cars will change this.

      – Auto Body Shops and The Automotive Industry. Because driverless car technology uses a number of different existing technologies including GPS systems, light and sound sensors, ultrasonic and radar, video cameras, as well as the cars own computer system, the automation of cars will continually be refined so that there will be less accidents and collisions. This will have a major effect on not only body shops but the auto industry itself, with less auto parts being bought and less auto body technicians needed. With an estimated 42,000 body shops in the U.S. this can have a huge impact on the economy in this industry alone.

      – The Transportation Industry. Long-haul truck drivers, cab drivers and bus drivers will all be affected by this massive shift in the way we transport goods and services. People who drive comprise nearly 3% of the total workforce in the U.S. and some cities will be more affected than others.  Consumers who pay for transportation by riding the bus or using taxis pay not only for the use of the car but the person who drives the car.  This is one of the reasons Uber got onboard with this technology in the first place.  Their business model is one of driver’s using their personal vehicles to transport “fares” more cheaply than typical cab companies. Driverless car technology could make this even cheaper for consumers when Uber won’t have to pay the driver, thus driving down costs.

      Some estimate that this technology could cost 5 million jobs nationwide. The country has lost 5 million manufacturing jobs since 2000 and, although this has devastated some towns and cities,  the government has attempted to find ways to compensate for this.  Since tech firms like Google and Uber stand to wildly profit from this technology, they may lobby Congress to enact legislation giving the go-ahead for these cars nationwide—providing they can prove the cars are safe—as well as set up regulations for this new industry.  In return Congress could impose a tax on this to pay for job re-training programs and expand workforce development in other industries to compensate for the jobs lost because of it.

      Since the full impact of this is 10-20 years away, we have time to think about it and figure out appropriate solutions that are good for everyone.

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