With autonomous vehicles widely being considered one of the breakout innovations of 2016, the debate that autonomous vehicles combined with artificial intelligence will replace jobs is revving into high gear. Largely this is a misnomer, as autonomous vehicles will create new jobs, job sectors and economic models.
The debate over innovations and technology replacing jobs is as old as history itself. During the first industrial revolution in 18th century England, new manufacturing processes and technologies were invented which led to the mechanization of textile production. This technical breakthrough led to the factory system; a system which would go on to create millions upon millions of jobs despite the worry that jobs would diminish due to automation.
In 2006, the technical breakthrough of cloud computing came from Amazon with the introduction of Elastic Compute cloud (EC2) as a commercial web service. IT professionals and industry analytics predicted large job losses as companies would outsource their computing needs. The opposite ended up being true, as cloud computing directly and indirectly created millions of jobs across the globe and tens of billions of dollars in wealth.
When Andy Jassy (who was Jeff Bezos first official shadow) wrote the AWS mission paper he said, “we tried to imagine a student in a dorm room who would have at his or her disposal the same infrastructure as the largest companies in the world.” The concept imagined by Mr. Jassy would eventually allow the founders of Airbnb to develop, launch, and scale Airbnb with the same infrastructure as the largest hotel companies in the world.
Since the company was founded in 2008, the hotel industry has cast a wary eye on Airbnb. From 2008 to 2015, Airbnb has supported hundreds of thousands of jobs, and hosts in the United States earned more than $3.2 billion in income. While in Europe, Airbnb hosts collectively earned more than $3 billion in 2015 alone.
Additionally, over the last five years, global hotel industry revenue has grown by more than $100 billion and supported hundreds of thousands of jobs.
The Hybrid Years
Despite the negative publicity, Airbnb and the global hotel industry have complemented each other rather nicely. The same will be proven true with drivers and autonomous vehicles powered by artificial intelligence during the hybrid years.
The hybrid years is a term I am coining that describes the time period when both driver vehicles and autonomous vehicles are traveling on public roadways. During the hybrid years, the role of driver and logistics will merge into the role of autonomous logistics officers.
Autonomous logistics officers will manage fleets of vehicles from a remote command center in multiple daily shifts. When these roles merge, drivers’ quality of life will improve immensely. This new job category will create thousands of jobs for individuals with a new, unique skill set.
Individuals with this new skill are already in demand according to the Wall Street Journal as Amazon is looking to acquire or build an application capable of matching available trucks to shipments.
During the hybrid years – which are starting now – forward-looking entrepreneurs will successfully identify changing market dynamics and create new businesses which, in turn, will create new jobs. This is the very scenario that has played out time and time again throughout history.
This is already happening today with connected cars and software. Smart Car, RideCell and Otonomo are all developing software platforms to enable entrepreneurs and established companies to build applications and services on top of the connected car (autonomous vehicle).
The services currently being developed on these platforms will create jobs and income for hundreds of thousands of individuals. JPMorgan Chase calls this the platform economy. The JPMorgan Chase Institute estimates that between October 2012 and September 2015, 4.2 percent of adults, an estimated 10.3 million people — more than the total population of New York City — earned income on the platform economy.
During the hybrid years, the platform economy will continue to grow and provide jobs and income for millions of individuals. Following the hybrid years, technology will evolve to the point where vehicles will no longer be driven by human drivers and autonomous vehicles will no longer be managed by autonomous logistics officers.
At this point in history, and for the first time, society will rely on fully autonomous vehicles as our main source of transportation. History will once again repeat itself as new jobs and new sectors will be created. Most of these new sectors and jobs have not yet been imagined; however, they are coming. We just need to look back on history as a guide.
Grayson Brulte is the Co-Founder & President of Brulte & Company, an innovation advisory and consulting company that designs innovation and technology strategies for a global marketplace.