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Which jobs will be made obsolete by driverless cars?

42 Comments

Driverless cars. They’re so present in the news we tend to forget they’re not on the road yet. Constant coverage has made them commonplace before anyone has ever been taken anywhere by one. “Just like science fiction,” says Shukan Gendai (Feb 4), trotting out the hoary cliché. Everything is just like science fiction nowadays.

They’re not here yet, but they soon will be. In 2015, the government set out its “road map” with the 2020 Tokyo Olympics in view. This year, tests are to begin on public roads – in Okinawa in spring, in Tokyo in fall. Artificial intelligence and its vast implications will start to come home to us via driverless cars. Move over, humans. You’ve had your day. You’re no longer needed.

That’s the angle Shukan Gendai looks at – the jobs that will turn obsolete. Not that the magazine fails to acknowledge the practical advantages. Ferrying spectators and athletes around the Olympic Village is only the high-profile tip of the iceberg. Less spectacularly but more lastingly, they will keep public transportation alive in rural areas where depopulation makes bus and train service as we now know it uneconomical, however dependent aging local residents are on them.

Long-distance busing and trucking are also endangered as drivers age and few young people step in to replace them. Computer drivers never age, never tire.

If you happen to be a bus or truck driver not on the verge of retirement, of course, you are in the uneasy position of having to regard yourself as an endangered species. Drivers of all sorts are – urban taxi drivers, airport shuttle bus drivers, train drivers, parcel post service drivers and so on. Heavy equipment operators at mines, construction sites and forestry operations likewise. And garbage truck drivers. There’s more to their work than simply driving – they must collect the refuse as well. But that’s hardly beyond the capacity of existing robots.

That driverlessness threatens drivers is hardly surprising, but other those in other occupations too are advised to prepare for the future before it hits – store clerks, for instance, as driverless home delivery spreads; or parking lot operators, as the private automobile increasingly becomes a museum piece; or drivers’ license bureau staff, as drivers’ licenses become irrelevant.

What will police patrol officers do in a driverless era? Will there be speeders to catch? Even supposing an artificially intelligent computer-driver has been programmed with enough of a mischievous spirit to defy the rules of the road – just to see if it can get away with it, perhaps. It’s an easy leap of the imagination to foresee computerized police patrols more than a match for him, her or it. So the police force too, faces attenuation.

Machines have been eliminating human jobs for 200 years. They’ve also created jobs. Whether artificial intelligence will too, or whether the jobs it does create will be accessible to people of ordinary intelligence, is an issue that will have to be coped with somehow. With driverless cars on the immediate horizon, Shukan Gendai warns, we’d better start thinking concretely about what “somehow” means.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

42 Comments
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Maybe it'll be the death knell for the driver training industry that's such a rip-off here--though I imagine the government will find some way to require licenses (and expensive training) even for operators of "driverless" cars.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Car thieves!

2 ( +3 / -1 )

over half of all rd fatalities in Japan are caused by elderly drivers, the quicker we can get them off the rds and into driverless cars the safer itll be for everyone.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

over half of all rd fatalities in Japan are caused by elderly drivers

Really? I could swear Cleo posted some stats to show that to not be accurate a few weeks back. Do you have a link for that?

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I am sure that somebody went to a lot of trouble phrasing the question just right, but the question is not useful. Frankly, I don't think ANY job will simply be "obsolete." I do think it will change jobs of everyone to various degrees.

For instance, long haul truckers will still be needed. They just won't need to be skilled or paid very much. Or they will have to work in less profitable and less intense routes. That will affect what we know as "truck stops" and all the people who work there as waitresses, lizards, and whatever.

Taxi drivers will still be around, but they will work less intensive routes and might become little independent Ubers or something. Dispatchers might be in greater demand if they can do their jobs better than they do now.

Bus drivers will still be needed, but mostly just to handle exceptional situations. They will be hired on customer service skills rather than driving skills, and they will earn a lot less. We will have fewer Ralph Kramdens.

And driving instructors will teach people how to use menus instead of parallel park. Once the interfaces become standardized, people will be able to learn to drive over the internet, probably. People will learn to deal with exceptions rather than to deal with rules.

Because the problem of "driving" is more difficult than people think, the changes will come over about two decades, not in the next couple of years, so society will probably be able to adapt. The social problem will be more underemployment than unemployment. People who can work for less money will continue to find employment.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

One thing that all wants to see being out of work, traffic police! !

No more humans in command of the car no more need for police intervention to chase the cars.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Which jobs will be made obsolete by driverless cars?

Writers at JapanToday have already been replaced. It's obvious this rag doesn't have anyone at the steering wheel!

Moderator: As always, your comments add nothing to the discussion.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Which jobs will become obsolete?

Driving instructors, etc as driving licences will become obsolete.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

OMG people please, diver-less cars will never happen without rails stop it already

-5 ( +1 / -6 )

@Dango bong You're more or less correct. Driverless cars will only be effective in very tightly controlled areas.

Thanks for this opportunity to add something to the conversation!

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I'd say that taxi's will be the main thing to go... with the exception that people will probably be doing some very bad and nasty things in a driverless taxi without the presence of a cabbie. If someone throws up in the vehicle or leaves dangerous items in the back seat without someone to notice them it could be problematic in the long run without a human presence.

I think it will not affect long distance truck drivers and delivery/mail vehicles jobs as there needs to be some human guidance, as well as personnel to select the proper package to be delivered and receive a signature for the delivery.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Machines have been eliminating human jobs for 200 years. They’ve also created jobs. Whether artificial intelligence will too, or whether the jobs it does create will be accessible to people of ordinary intelligence, is an issue that will have to be coped with somehow.

This point at the end is the key one. Change like driverless cars is not going to stop, but it does not need to be random, unplanned and destructive of lives of people stuck in occupations.

'Which jobs will be made obsolete?' is the first question to ask if appropriate economic and social planning that people (unlike AI) can still make.

The next question is 'How can this be done without putting people out too much?' My question is why so few ask it.

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Elimination of jobs due to advancements in technology has been going on since at least the industrial revolution. Hell blacksmiths died out with the invention of the car, well pretty much, and people get the idea.

The problem is the pace that it is occurring today, and the ability, or not, of people to adapt and adjust to the changes that face daily.

People used to have more time to process the new ideas and new realities, now it's at a breakneck pace and many people are having a hard time adjusting.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

the old fellas in japan can finally retire

1 ( +1 / -0 )

'Which jobs will be made obsolete?' is the first question to ask if appropriate economic and social planning that people (unlike AI) can still make. The next question is 'How can this be done without putting people out too much?' My question is why so few ask it.

Because planned economies always collapse. Job creation and elimination are as basic as life and death. Can't have one without the other.

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look if the majority of trains can not be driverless how can cars be? stop the lame debate..

-3 ( +1 / -4 )

real time delivery to malls and stores at night to remove traffic during the day.

more freedom for elderly as their numbers increase

from hospitals to home

from home to hospitals; additional ambulance service as not everyone is unconscious during a health event

stacked parking like Pez dispensers that I like so much in Japan. More of those, just because ;)

instant updates on deliveries to your home that you can track or change on the fly on your phone, to send to where ever you are, at work, at a transit station, or even on the street

smaller specialized deliveries will benefit smaller specialized businesses

The flip side of millions of unemployed are more entrepreneurialships in creating specialized companies to support our new higher demanded level of services. Becoming even more information and service based economies will require a more technical workforce than mere porters and butlers. More taxes will be needed to make up the shortfall, but spread out over more businesses so it's not as noticeable will pay for a Basic Income for those displaced and in need of new education. Basic Income pilot projects are happening already. It's all happening

How we decide to manage change will be the salient issue

1 ( +1 / -0 )

look if the majority of trains can not be driverless how can cars be?

They can be and some are. The reasons many trains still have drivers has nothing to do with the technology. It's politics, unions, an industry that resists change, etc.

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The reasons many trains still have drivers has nothing to do with the technology. It's politics, unions, an industry that resists change, etc.

Pretty sure the Auto unions and lobby are stronger than trains.. Logic please

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Unions are just one of the reasons. Trains are heavily subsidized by the government, and so more heavily regulated. Train drivers jobs are in many cases required by law. Auto worker's unions are for the people who build cars, not the people who drive them.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Can you imagine the liability of driver-less cars when someone gets killed? Car companies would be silly and foolish to attempt it. Besides, is driving the car yourself really THAT bothersome?

Please this argument is so stupid.

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@Dango - The liability issue you bring up is valid and a good issue, however, car companies are still in the process of attempting this. Personally, I like driving and do not find driving that bothersome.

On the other hand I think the day will come when this will be a reality (although I think it is still a long ways off).

A while back, the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) had a good report on this in their monthly magazine, Spectrum. There is some interesting reading in there as well as some discussion related to the technical challenges and what has already been implemented.

http://spectrum.ieee.org/static/the-self-driving-car

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Large parts of the car industry will be at risk from driverless cars. If you cannot drive the car yourself there is little point in owning it: people will just rent them instead. The demand for cars will fall as fewer vehicles will be needed. I think the car makers are cutting their own throat with driverless cars. Not that I care as I don't own a car, but a huge number of fairly well paid jobs depend on the industry.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

Daiko services

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I like driving, but I don't look forward to losing my drivers license in old age either. This would solve that problem, as it would the problem of drunk drivers.

If you cannot drive the car yourself there is little point in owning it: people will just rent them instead.

I hear this often, but I fail to see the connection. Whether I can drive it myself or not, I would like the idea of having my own car, with my own stuff in it, available to use whenever and wherever I want. While it does make the rental car option more attractive, I don't see that taking precedence over ownership anytime soon.

Either way, though, the car companies have to keep up with the times. The consequences of falling behind are worse than the consequences of progress in this case.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I do nto know a single person in the market for a driver-less car, seems like a waste of time to invest in just like those silly robots they develop that nobody buys..

-4 ( +0 / -4 )

I do nto know a single person in the market for a driver-less car

I'd buy one.

Now you know someone.

I bet there's even someone else who is interested in them!

Which is why making decisions based purely on what you directly observe leads to flawed judgments.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

I wouldn't buy one, said I don't like automatics or semi-automatics on both cars and bikes either.

Manual all the way here.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

@Strangerland I do not know you and after seeing the rice tag you probably would change your mind rather than paying 30% more for a silly gimmick

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

after seeing the rice tag you probably would change your mind rather than paying 30% more for a silly gimmick

Prices will go down over time. And I don't see it as a silly gimmick. In fact, I see it as a safety issue - driverless cars will be safer than human-driven cars, and the more that are on the road, the safer the roads will be, especially if they all start communicating with each other. And for my family's safety, I'm willing to pay more.

On top of that, the convenience of being able to play cards or read or watch videos in the car while driving is more than just a gimmick to me.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

its a gimmick and you are playing devil's advocate for a lost cause, they will never cath on

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

its a gimmick and you are playing devil's advocate for a lost cause, they will never cath on

Let's see. I have some random dude saying they will never catch on. Then I see Toyota, Google, and many other huge companies that are putting significant funds into developing them. Logic tells me that they aren't going to do this on a whim, but rather made the decision based on the predictions of professionals in their industries, and research into whether or not they can actually make money off this.

In my position, whose opinion would you place more weight on? Some random guy on the internet? Or the opinions of huge corporations whose only goal is to make money off the technology?

I know which one I place more weight on.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Toll Both operators, Pan Handlers, Insurance Salesmen... especially if accidents greatly decrease. Gasoline attendants might increase.... You may not need actual stop lights.... a wireless signal should work. So all the people that take care of stop lights. Patrol cars looking for speeders.... DUI Courts and fines and lawyers and schools.... driving schools. A lot of people will lose jobs.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Hmmm... driver?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Drivers should retrain as medical personnel as there will be an increased need for them.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

People are saying that they won't catch on, but they are necessary in the countryside where the population is aging and the authorities have stopped providing public transport. Not everybody lives in Tokyo where you can walk to the shops/hospitals.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

People are saying that they won't catch on

Nobody with any sense is saying that. I am looking forward to buying one in my golden years.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Anywhere there are small outfits that service cars will close. Instead there will be large, probably underground massive complexes where the many auto-cars will go to be temporarily parked, as well as cleaned, serviced, and gassed up -- sorry, recharged.

Will be much better use of public space currently taken up by parking lots, street parking, and parking garages when the auto-vehicles are on-call through your mobile app. Forget searching for a parking spot. Instead, just go to the street, wait a few seconds, and the next available empty car pulls up to you.

I am willing to bet they will be a lot nicer than any vehicle most single owners can afford. Think Benzes and BMWs for the masses.

And being all-electric, zero pollution.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Some husbands and boyfriends... ;)

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Getaway drivers... taxi drivers... driving instructors...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I cannot wait to see a driverless motorcycle. Vroom Vroom....They will probably have Bosozoku Models that make a lot of noises and have the license plate bent up on voice command.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

I wonder who will be held liable when things go wrong: the owner of the vehicle, the software engineer or both?

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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