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The impact of just one type of automation: Self-driving cars and trucks.

Posted on January 8th, 2017 by Gerhard

Once self driving cars and trucks gets introduced to the mass market (also assuming most cars and trucks at this point will also be electric), Uber-like companies will start laying off staff and turn entire fleets autonomous, which will ultimately make it a whole lot cheaper to operate which will drop the prices to the consumer. If you combine that with parking being a constant pain in the ass, not even to talk about finding parking, in the city, where you can also charge your car, and considering that you won’t be able to drive your own car at all, it quickly becomes clear that you won’t need to own a car anymore.

Most people will use cars on a per ride basis, while not owning a car, meaning that you will probably get rid of car salesmen, You will probably end up with a situation where 5 or 6 large fleets will manage all the car needs of humans. I can see this being current car manufacturers, like Ford. Toyota and maybe GM.

This already started. Volkswagen is launching an on-demand shuttle services in 2017 to take on Uber and Tesla plans a ‘shared autonomous fleet’ for owners to make money on the side.

The other benefit to having a modern electric car is that they can talk to other cars. sharing location, speed, acceleration, etc. What this will do is that they will be able to calculate their own relative space between the other cars. Once we have this, we won’t need traffic lights, stop signs, lines on the road and signs on national/interstate roads can be reduced to just town names and maybe a distance indicator every once in a while. (We can probably get rid of this as well considering we’re all carrying GPS enabled computers in our pockets already).

Another thing to consider is that once all of the vehicles belong to fleets who’s probably the manufacturer, and the fact that electric cars requires a lot less maintenance, car repair shops and full-time mechanics will become extinct. (Excluding for the electrical engineers that works for the manufacturers of course)

I’m sure I left out a whole ton of industries that will disappear as a result (like, will we still need wiper blades?), but for the purpose of this article I think this is enough to get the point across.

So let’s tally this up, everyone who’s job will be made redundant by the introduction of the self-driving electric car:

Professional drivers (taxi and truck)

Through some very basic and conservative math some guy on Quora estimated that about 17.78 million taxi drivers worldwide.

According to alltrucking.com there is about 3.5 million professional truck drivers just in the USA, meaning that we’re looking at a number that’s probably greater than 80 million globally. (America makes for 4.4% of global population)

Car salesmen (by manufacturer, small shop, or even newspaper classified sales)

Someone on Quora made an estimation of about 175,000 car dealerships in the world, and if we say that each one of those only had 1 sales person and 1 admin person, you’re looking at 350,000 people. (Which is probably a grossly conservative number considering that this does not include cars sold through classified ads or the Internet.)

Traffic sign manufacturing (and the people who had to deal with buying them for the government, and the people who have to go out and install those signs)

An estimation of about 50,000 people worldwide installing road signs and let’s say another 20,000 for manufacturing globally. (also probably a grossly conservative number.)

Traffic lights manufacturing (including the people who had to deal with buying them for the government, and the people who have to go out and install those signs)

This will be similar to road signs, so let’s say 50,000 people globally.

Painting lines one the road (including the people who had to deal with buying line-paint for the government)

Probably around 10,000 people, if you look at in relation to the previous estimated numbers for the related industries above.

Individual car insurance providers.

Automakers sold 16.5 million new vehicles in 2014, if we just use that number, excluding cash purchases and also second-hand car sales, divide it by 4 (conservative 4 car insurance approvals per day) and divide it by 255 (average number of work days in a year), you get roughly 16,000 jobs.

Individual car loan providers.

If we use the math above, adjusting for 8 car loan approvals per day, you get roughly 8,000 jobs.


Statista.com’s says that there is 221,206 auto repair and maintenance establishments in the United States, which makes up 4.4% of the world’s population, you’re looking at roughly 5 million people globally. (Also probably a grossly conservative number considering that this would be one mechanic per establishment and doesn’t take admin and management staff into consideration.)

If we add up all of these numbers we get a very rough estimate of 103,284,000. That is the number of people who’s job will be severely cut back or complete be removed.

What would happen to the economy if over the next 20 years 100 million people suddenly become unemployed?

PS. If you think that my math is crazy wrong and would like to make any adjustments, please comment and I will adjust accordingly. 🙂

*Originally posted on Medium here: https://medium.com/@thatgerhard/the-impact-of-just-one-type-of-automation-self-driving-cars-and-trucks-3a8983d7629#.8hs56qu16
Posted in AI, Economy, Thoughts