March 1, 2017
More than 30 companies say they are just a few years away from introducing autonomous vehicles to the mass market. While it is unknown what the ultimate impact of autonomous vehicles will have on jobs, there is a possibility that there could be a relatively rapid transition. This is likely to cause significant pain in a number of communities, as well as exacerbate the losses of "good jobs," a category that includes some driving jobs. It would be prudent to strengthen our safety net and labor market to absorb a shock from autonomous-vehicle technology, as well as ensure that autonomous-vehicle technology is safe and reliable. This will be a challenge, given the recent change in the party controlling the executive branch, and its new secretary of transportation. Strengthening the unemployment insurance system, improving apprenticeship programs, making higher education more affordable, and committing to full employment can not only minimize the harm to displaced workers, but can provide them with opportunities that lead to fulfilling and economically sustaining jobs. This is good policy whether or not autonomous vehicles are around the corner.