Preparing Workers For Our Autonomous Vehicle Future

The United States is on the verge of a major technological revolution that will create tremendous opportunities, as well as potential challenges, for our nation’s workforce. Continuing advances in autonomous vehicle (AV) technology present an opportunity for lawmakers and relevant stakeholders to proactively form policies that ensure workers will have front-of-the-line access to the economic benefits AVs promise. The challenge lies in answering complex questions about a still-evolving technology.

In an effort to begin preparing the workforce for eventual changes and opportunities AVs may bring, a group of leading companies and associations formed the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO). Working together, the American Trucking Associations, Daimler, FedEx, Ford, Lyft, Toyota Motor North America, Uber, UPS, and Waymo have committed themselves to identifying evidence-based policies and programs that will support workers as they prepare for jobs of the future. Doing so will require collaboration from a broad range of stakeholders to answer key questions essential to understanding the impact of AVs on the workforce.

PTIO has pursued three initiatives to further this objective.

First, PTIO released a set of research priorities to outline existing information gaps and guide policymakers and stakeholders as they consider where future research efforts should be targeted.


  • How will AV technology impact the American workforce? While research predicts that AVs will have a gradual – rather than an immediate – effect on the workforce, questions remain as to how the technology will vary in impact across different regions of the country, how current occupations are likely to be affected, and what new occupations may emerge.
  • What training is needed to ensure a smooth workforce transition to AVs and how should it be delivered? For incumbent and new workers to be prepared for the changes this new technology may bring, a thorough understanding is needed of both training requirements and how this training can be provided most effectively.
  • How will AV technology improve quality of life? AV technology has the potential to improve working conditions for some driving occupations, and it may also empower those whose career opportunities have been limited by poor access to transportation. Further study is needed to gain a better understanding of how specific occupations, and the labor market as a whole, are likely to be reshaped.

Secondly, PTIO recently endorsed several pieces of legislation introduced by members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. Evidence-based policy is contingent upon a robust foundation of data, and the Workforce DATA Act would better assess the impacts of automation on the workforce.  Additionally, the Skills Investment Act and the Lifelong Learning and Training Account Act would help foster a culture of lifelong learning and skills development, which is a valuable step in empowering workers to succeed in an evolving workplace. PTIO commends lawmakers for their leadership on these important bills.

Finally, PTIO representatives have traveled the country to learn more about the potential impacts of automation from a regional perspective. Through discussions with local communities, we are gaining a more thorough understanding of regional, state, and local issues and factors that are important to consider when evaluating and planning for an AV future, and what that technology will mean for workers across America.

Through these efforts, PTIO is embracing its obligation to provide Americans with an understanding of the changes that AV technology may bring and its role in ensuring workers have the opportunity to prepare for success in our AV future.

Kathryn Branson

Kathryn Branson joined Ulman Public Policy as an Associate in 2017. For the last year, Kathryn has spearheaded efforts to form a 501(c)(6) for a group of leading public and private companies in the transportation industry: Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO). She has worked with key representatives of each company, outside counsel and other vendors to ensure smooth formation. Her work ensured the project came in on time and on budget.

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