I’ve been in the automotive industry for more than two decades and while some claim there is hype around the timing and benefits of autonomous vehicles right now, I can assure you the impact of the changes these vehicles will bring are very real. The automotive industry will change more in the next fifteen years than it has in the last fifty. Not since we switched from the horse and buggy to the first four-wheeled automobiles did we experience such a change as the one that is ahead of us now.
Consumers will likely use their phones to hail autonomous vehicles and the whole dynamic of how our entire society moves will change. It will impact many industries beyond automotive including media, telecoms, energy, real estate and much more. These changes are going to create many new, fascinating jobs that do not exist today. But these changes will also put thousands upon thousands of people across the globe out of work if their sole method of earning income is from driving a car.
Some will advocate for governments to create a basic universal income and healthcare for all. Others will ignore the changes brought by technology and disruption and hope the problem solves itself. But companies and individuals can act above any political debates and put forth initiatives that galvanize people out of apathy and despair. Driving disruption and providing a way forward for the disrupted are not mutually exclusive endeavors.
We all can be proactive in this new paradigm. Instead of waiting for the changes that will soon be upon us, people in jobs that will be affected can be offered special programs that teach these professional drivers new skills or provide certifications in new areas that fit the reshaping automotive industry. Ride sharing services could recruit former drivers that know the best routes of urban areas, guided by their years of experience, and bring these drivers on board to advise the shaping of map programs and AI systems for autonomous vehicles.
This is a call to action on us as a society. We can help each other outmaneuver disruption and be proactive in shaping the change that is coming.