Guest Op-Ed: Automated Vehicles and the Future of the American Workforce

The way we move in the US is on the cusp of a revolutionary shift. Due to the exponential speed of advances in automated transportation, federal, state, and local governments in the US are examining its potential effects on our communities, evaluating future needs, and beginning to lay the necessary groundwork to respond to these changes.

Some critical questions businesses are asking themselves – especially those in the transportation sector – are:  1) How will automation affect our existing workers and the future of work, and 2) How can we facilitate the adoption of lifesaving technological advancements while also addressing the fears of those already working in these fields?

At Daimler, parent company of brands Mercedes-Benz and Freightliner, we are helping shepherd the transition to an automated vehicle (AV) future for both the passenger car and heavy duty trucking sectors. And we recognize the need to communicate with and train American workers for the opportunities and challenges that advancing technology may create for them.

That recognition was the driving force behind Daimler’s decision to join the American Trucking Associations, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota, Uber, and Waymo to form a coalition called the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity, also known as PTIO. Created in June 2018, PTIO’s stated mission is to advance AV technology, and other transportation innovations, while also nurturing the creation of future opportunities for the American workforce.

In its first nine months, PTIO embarked on a program of open and in-depth conversations focused on what our AV future holds for the American worker, how we can proactively address and communicate the impact this technology may have on jobs, and how we can help shape public policy to ensure that our entire workforce benefits from the adoption of AV technology. To date, we have either met or held listening sessions with public officials and stakeholders in Washington, D.C. and communities throughout the country – Ohio and Indiana, to name a few. More events are planned this year in local communities to gauge potential impacts and plan how we can work together to address medium- and long-term changes.

We know that preparing the workforce for an AV future requires a comprehensive and evidence-based understanding of the interplay between the technology and jobs.  Based on our efforts and interactions to date, PTIO recently released a list of recommended research priorities that identify a set of key questions upon which we believe policymakers and stakeholders should focus future research. Subsequently, our top priority is to identify data-driven policies and programs that will help connect workers with concrete economic opportunities and to advocate for their adoption alongside the rollout of AV technology.

By working together, Daimler and our partners at PTIO are beginning to recognize the opportunities that AV technology will create. It is our aim that American workers will realize a more personally-fulfilling and rewarding economic future alongside the ensuing safer, more efficient, and more environmentally-friendly AV era.

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