What happens to the drivers when automatic driving cars arrive?

I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about the gig economy lately because of The Gig Saloon, which is trying to help give gig workers more bargaining power in the gig economy. I am really fascinated by the idea of not just services on-demand but also work and income on-demand.

But one thing that keeps bugging me when I think about what the future of the gig economy looks like is what happens when driverless cars arrive?

It seems pretty evident to me that driverless vehicles will one day be the rule, rather than the exception. And that one day is getting pretty close. You can debate about the timing of driverless cars but I don’t think you can debate about the inevitability of them.

The problem with this is that almost all of the current gig economy jobs are driver based. Whether that driver comes to pick you up and drive you to your destination or drives to a restaurant to pick up your order and bring it to you, driving is at the core of gig economy work right now.

That will completely change when driverless cars arrive. Those jobs will no longer be there. I don’t think that means something should be done to prevent or slow the progress of driverless cars. In fact, I think the opposite because of all the benefits society will gain from driverless cars.

But I am curious what will happen to all the people (and there are millions of them currently, not to mention truck drivers as well) that use their vehicle as their main source of income.

Perhaps these jobs will just take another shape. Instead of driving around to deliver services, people will instead deliver services digitally. We can already see this happening with things like Amazon Mechanical Turk or Upwork. It’s not hard to imagine more services like these popping up, especially with the growing need for training AI algorithms.

Another alternative would be to invest in training current workers for the skills of tomorrow. I am 100% for this but I am also realistic and recognize this won’t work for everyone and most likely will take a much longer time frame than a 45 year-old person without those skills has.

Maybe new technologies will unlock new forms of jobs that won’t require humans to be behind a wheel and don’t take a lot of training either. I am not sure exactly what these jobs would be, but nobody thought you’d be able to hire a car from your pocket 10 years ago either.

Unfortunately, I don’t know what the future holds but I do think we should be thinking about what affects it might have and start planning for them today. Maybe the company you’re thinking about starting could utilize a large and eager workforce?