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The Employment Impact of Autonomous Vehicles

The expected introduction of autonomous, or “self-driving,” vehicles (AVs) promises to have a potentially profound impact on labor demand. This paper explores this potential effect by identifying the occupations most likely to be directly affected by the business adoption of autonomous vehicles.

  • In 2015, 15.5 million U.S. workers were employed in occupations that could be affected (to varying degrees) by the introduction of automated vehicles. This represents about one in nine workers.
  • We divide these occupations into “motor vehicle operators” and “other on-the-job drivers.” Motor vehicle operators are occupations for which driving vehicles to transport persons and goods is a primary activity, are more likely to be displaced by AVs than other driving-related occupations. In 2015, there were 3.8 million workers in these occupations. These workers were predominately male, older, less educated, and compensated less than the typical worker. Motor vehicle operator jobs are most concentrated in the transportation and warehousing sector.
  • Other on-the-job drivers use roadway motor vehicles to deliver services or to travel to work sites, such as first responders, construction trades, repair and installation, and personal home care aides. In 2015, there were 11.7 million workers in these occupations and they are mostly concentrated in construction, administrative and waste management, health care, and government. Other-on-the-job drivers may be more likely to benefit from greater productivity and better working conditions offered by AVs than motor vehicle operator occupations.
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