Car Culture

Ford, Waymo, Lyft and others form a new self-driving advocacy group

This new lobbying group will focus on the human cost of self-driving cars becoming widespread.

For a technology that is largely unavailable to the general public, self-driving cars are a fairly contentious subject. Whether it's journalists, pundits, or armchair quarterbacks arguing over the safety of autonomous vehicles, or the likelihood that they will put a bunch of people out of work, people already have their hackles up. To help calm people's fears and concerns about the advent of this world-changing technology, several companies including Ford, Waymo and Lyft have banded together to form the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO).

Where the PTIO differs from previous autonomous car advocacy groups is its focus on the potential human cost of self-driving car tech becoming commonplace. Currently, around 3.8 million Americans drive for a living, whether it's taxi drivers, truckers, limo drivers, bus drivers and so on. and they'd all probably be out of a job once our cars drive themselves. Goldman-Sachs predicts that the US would see job losses in the neighborhood of 300,000 per year in the run-up to full autonomy.

Waymo is one of the most prominent self-driving car developers, but even it is concerned with what its tech might do to human jobs.

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Another interesting aspect of the formation of the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity is the implications of all these companies -- which include Ford, Toyota, Daimler, Waymo, Uber, Lyft, FedEx and the American Trucking organization -- working together. Previous lobbying groups for autonomous cars have focused more on the legal roadblocks that would prevent widespread testing and eventually adoption.

Self-driving cars would end up being pretty crappy news for a lot of people, and part of the PTIO's mission is to educate the people working in this sector on the availability of existing and near-term job prospects. This feels a little Ballad of John Henry to us, and short-term job possibilities seem like cold comfort to someone who could be without a livelihood in a decade's time or possibly sooner.

Pair that with the fact that a majority of Americans polled have said that they would be afraid to ride in an autonomous car, and the PTIO has a lot of hearts and minds to win.

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