August 1, 2022
Impacts of AV Innovations on the Workforce
Innovation, the workforce, creativity, and planning for the future are inevitably intertwined. People in communities across the country get up before sunrise to operate the buses others take to get to work. Long-haul truck drivers spend weeks on the road away from their families, traveling the nation’s highways to deliver food to grocery stores. Many people with diverse backgrounds drive late night hours for ride-hailing companies to help others get to their destinations on time.
All of these jobs have become increasingly technology-enabled. From smartphones to connected vehicle technologies and automation, the private sector is finding ways to automate some of these tasks to make everyone safer, help get people around more efficiently, reduce carbon footprints, and ultimately expand access and opportunities.
On July 18th, ITS America partnered with TRB and Partnership for Transportation Innovation & Opportunity (PTIO) to host one of the nation’s first roundtables on the impacts of automated vehicle (AV) innovations on the workforce. We invited leaders from organized labor, research, private industry, public agencies including the U.S Department of Transportation (USDOT), workforce development, and nonprofit organizations to a roundtable to listen to one another, learn about AV workforce development programs, and come to a consensus on how the nation should progress to balance innovation with high-quality, dignified, skilled jobs.
Progress in the automated vehicle industry’s national policy has stalled in the past due to impasses between private industry and labor because of the perception that automation would displace jobs in bus driving, taxi and ride-hailing, and trucking. With our work this past month, however, these sectors and others came to the table prepared to listen, learn, and develop a consensus on how to progress towards a technological future without displacing the people who help the country hum.
ITS America recognizes the opportunities and challenges automation brings to transportation, the future of mobility, and the U.S. workforce. ITS America sought to partner with labor, the private and public sectors, workforce development programs, researchers, and USDOT to initiate a conversation on collaborative opportunities to reskill, retrain, support, and empower workers in the automation space, and to expand access to innovation in the transportation sector.
The goals were to:
- Discuss the impact of vehicle automation on the workforce;
- Identify opportunities to reskill, retrain, support, and empower workers to support transportation innovation; and
- Listen and learn from the public sector, private industry, research, and organized labor
The roundtable began by asking participants, “what’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of automated vehicles and workforce development?” Respondents noted that the ideas of opportunity, safety, future, growth, innovation, training, efficiency, and partnerships come to mind. When polled about what they wanted to accomplish at the roundtable, they responded:
- How can we learn about existing solutions?
- We want to understand labor and the government’s expectations
- How can we get to yes?
- How can we collaborate across sectors?
- What skills are needed?
- How can we work together in good faith to set clear expectations?
- Identify short-term objectives and our long-term needs to support the workforce
- How can we mitigate job losses?
- What are some alternative training approaches and existing programs?
- How can public agencies partner with industry to develop these skills?
The roundtable included opening comments highlighting perspectives, research, and existing programs with speakers from Texas Transportation Institute (TTI), Clemson University, Transportation Trades Department, Cruise, Beep, Drive Ohio, the Minnesota Innovation Alliance, and PTIO. Greg Winfree, Director of Texas A&M and co-chair of TRB’s Automated Vehicle/Shared Mobility forum, moderated the discussion.
ITS America and PTIO summarized the below key takeaways from the event.
- Partner more effectively together to actually talk to each other, rather than at each other.
- Continue convening and bringing in missing voices from insurance, transit, trucking, and other sectors.
- Include economists in these discussions to understand the data and local shifts in labor markets.
- Soft skills are just as important as technical skills. The workforce of the future will require a combination of skills we have not seen before, like combining technical skills with project management and creative problem-solving.
- The handoff between technology development and workforce development needs to be better defined. It’s less and less clear when a mechanic’s role ends and an IT technician’s begins with the technologies integrated into these vehicles.
- Funding is needed to support training, retraining, and employment partnerships.
- Create a federal framework for automated vehicle deployment, operations, and workforce development.
- Develop a strategic plan and vision along with a timeline for AV deployment to anticipate needs. There are no current mass deployment timelines, which must be created.
- Share information on current activities and programs, including educating young people – like middle and high school students – and developing credentialing programs for vocational students, community college training, and industry training. Engage the future workforce through camps, micro-credentialing, middle- and high-school engagement/demonstrations, community college curriculum, and specific industry training programs.
- Reduce silo-ing and leverage education among partners on what automation and connectivity can do.
- Operators and other workers are more willing to embrace technology than we think. Many operators have already had to learn to work with technology integrated into trucks, buses, and other vehicles. The biggest opportunity is education.
- Finally, begin and end with safety – educate and grow together to save lives and help people. In the end, the focus is on the user and those keeping us safe.
Conclusion and Next Steps
After robust discussion and debate, these key findings were shared with the group. The participants noted:
- This was fun. Let’s do it again soon. Let’s always start our remarks with a warm ‘howdy’
- Our community is willing to collaborate, and collaboration is possible.
- There is still lots more to do, but time to do it.
- There is a path forward.
- We need timely and honest information sharing.
- It is nearly impossible to predict workforce impacts without a clearer, viable path toward AV deployment.
- The communications gap between stakeholders is vast.
- We need to bring policymakers and elected officials to these conversations.
- We need to first educate ourselves on these topics. Then we can educate the public and other stakeholders.
- We must identify key knowledge, skills, and abilities in this work.
- It was a great beginning to a much-needed community discussion.
- We need to provide this information to Congress and USDOT to act.
- Thank you to organized labor for sharing their perspective.
ITS America, TRB, and PTIO will publish a summary of the roundtable discussions in the annual compendium of the Automated Road Transportation Symposium, Road Vehicle Automation, Volume 10. In addition, ITS America will provide a summary of the events to the participants in a white paper co-authored by the participants. Lastly, ITS America and TTI will convene a second roundtable discussion on this topic in the fall – stay tuned for more detailed information later this summer.