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Here are 128 things that will disappear in the driverless car era

Lots of jobs are going away when nobody's in the driver's seat

Thomas Frey //April 11, 2016//

Here are 128 things that will disappear in the driverless car era

Lots of jobs are going away when nobody's in the driver's seat

Thomas Frey //April 11, 2016//

(Editor's note: This is the second of two parts. Read Part One.)

Over the coming decades, a number of auto industry-wide “epiphany moments” will cause business leaders to rethink the true scope of the impact of driverless cars.

Early adopters will include Gen Z young people who will never feel the need to get a license and pay for insurance as well as Baby Boomers who don’t want to loose their freedom. Adding to the early user list will be poor people, both legal and illegal immigrants, folks with DUIs, teenagers too young to drive, the directionally impaired, people who have lost their insurance and many more.

Keep in mind these are changes that will take place over the next couple decades. In some cases, we will see a car industry version of Blockbuster video, where all physical stores disappear. While some will disappear completely, others, like travel agencies, will be reduced to a small fraction of their former self.

Below are lists to help you grasp the sea change ahead in the transportation industry. 

Driving Jobs that will Disappear – The job of driving a vehicle is one of the most common jobs in the world today. Most of these will evaporate over the coming decades.

  1. Taxi drivers
  2. Uber & Lyft drivers
  3. Delivery (FedEx, UPS, USPS) jobs
  4. Courier jobs
  5. Bus drivers
  6. Truck drivers
  7. Valet jobs
  8. Chauffeurs and limo drivers

Other Jobs that will Disappear – Along with driving vehicles, the transportation industry has a huge number of supporting roles that will also vanish.

  1. Road construction flag people
  2. Drivers-Ed teachers
  3. Traffic reporters
  4. Traffic analysts
  5. Car licensing and registration
  6. Drivers test people
  7. Rental car agents
  8. Crash testers

Specialty Vehicles – Virtually every vehicle that requires a human operator today will find itself competing with an autonomous version sometime in the future.

  1. Forklift drivers
  2. Lawnmower operators
  3. Snowplow operators
  4. Water truck drivers
  5. Fire truck drivers
  6. Water taxies
  7. Ambulance drivers
  8. Trash truck drivers

Farm and Equipment Vehicles – Agriculture has continually been on the forefront of innovation. Entering the driverless era will be no exception.

  1. Tractor drivers
  2. Combine operators
  3. Swather operators
  4. Bailer operators
  5. Sprayer operators
  6. Horse trailer drivers
  7. Grain truck operators
  8. Automated fruit harvester operators

Construction Equipment Vehicles – Road construction and repair is a huge industry that will eventually be taken over by unmanned bots and drones.

  1. Crane operators
  2. Road grader operators
  3. Earth movers
  4. Street sweeper operators
  5. Backhoe operators
  6. Trencher operators
  7. Cement truck operators
  8. Fuel truck operators

Car Sales, Finance, & Insurance Industry Positions – As we move from owned to shared vehicles, much of the transportation economy will also disappear.

  1. Auto sales – new and used
  2. Account managers
  3. Auto auctions
  4. Credit managers
  5. Loan underwriters
  6. Insurance agents and sales reps
  7. Insurance claims adjuster
  8. Insurance call center agents

Miscellaneous Jobs to Disappear – We often forget how embedded our transportation culture is in today’s economy. Here are a few more of our soon-to-be-forgotten professions.

  1. Traffic reporters on the news
  2. Sobriety checkpoint people
  3. Auto industry lobbyists
  4. Stoplight installers
  5. Pothole repair people
  6. Emission testers
  7. Road and parking lot stripers
  8. Night repair crews

Vehicle Features that will Disappear – The inside of cars will look radically different once the driver is removed from the equation.

  1. Steering wheels
  2. Gas pedals
  3. Talking GPS
  4. Dashboards for drivers
  5. Spare tires
  6. License plates
  7. Seatbelts
  8. Odometers

Vehicle Repair – Consumer-Facing Businesses – A significant portion of today’s retail and service industry is related to transportation. These too will begin to fade away.

  1. Roadside assistance
  2. Auto repair shops
  3. Body shops
  4. Tow trucks
  5. Glass repair
  6. Auto locksmiths
  7. Transmission repair shops
  8. Auto part stores

Vehicle Maintenance – There are a number of businesses that keep our cars operational and looking good. These too will dwindle over time.

  1. Gas stations
  2. Car washes
  3. Oil change businesses
  4. Detail shops
  5. Tire shops
  6. Brake shops
  7. Emissions testing
  8. Alignment shops

Driver Related Issues that will Disappear – Because of all the things that can go wrong in today’s congested traffic, many other issues will also disappear.

  1. Road rage
  2. Fender benders
  3. Car theft
  4. Getting lost
  5. Lost cars in parking lots
  6. Driving tests
  7. Traffic stops
  8. Crash test dummies

Parking Related Things – With cars today only being used 4 percent of the average day, we’ve had to build a massive parking infrastructure to accommodate both the long-term and short-term storage of unused vehicles. These will all lose their importance over time.

  1. Parking lots
  2. Parking garages
  3. Parking tickets
  4. Valet services
  5. Parallel parking
  6. Parking meters
  7. Charging stations
  8. Handicap parking

Courts/Justice System – In an autonomous vehicle era, most police departments will shrink to a fraction of their current size.

  1. Traffic cops
  2. Traffic courts – lawyers, DA, judges
  3. Driver licenses
  4. Patrol cars and officers
  5. DUIs and drunk driving
  6. Sobriety checkpoints
  7. The boot
  8. Road rage school

Highway Related – Future highways will not require near as many safety features.

  1. Traffic jams
  2. Traffic signs
  3. Traffic lanes
  4. Speed zones
  5. Road stripes
  6. Weigh stations
  7. Mile markers
  8. Guardrails

Highway Repair – While we will still need to repair roads in the future, repair activities will no longer be a major impediment to the flow of traffic.

  1. Traffic cones
  2. Road closures
  3. Detours
  4. Stoplights
  5. Pilot cars
  6. Flag people
  7. Merge lanes
  8. Night lights for late night road repair

Traffic Laws – Traffic law has grown to become a significant portion of the justice system penal code.

  1. Speeding tickets
  2. Failing to stop at a stoplight or stop sign
  3. DUIs – driving under the influence
  4. Reckless driving
  5. Driving in the wrong direction
  6. Passing in a no passing zone
  7. Unsafe lane changes
  8. Driver profiling – In our autonomous future, every car will be driven exactly the same way, so ageist, sexist, racist and regional driver prejudices will cease to exist.


Final Thoughts


The privilege of driving is about to be redefined. Elon Musk has predicted, over time, that lawmakers will decide that driving a vehicle is far too dangerous for humans, and most people will be outlawed from doing the driving themselves.

Following close behind autonomous vehicles on the ground will be a wide array of autonomous vehicles in the air, including flying passenger drones. Even though it will be many years before “droning to work” will become a common form of transportation, we will eventually get there.

Many are already thinking about the systematic loss of jobs coming when drivers are deemed unnecessary. The part that’s receiving far less attention is the huge number of new jobs that will replace the ones going away. Here is just a quick sampling:

  • In-car “ride experience” designers
  • Operators of fast food drones that will dock with moving cars
  • Traffic flow analysts
  • Traffic system planners, designers, and monitors
  • Automated traffic architects and engineers
  • Driverless operating system engineers
  • Luxury vehicle designers
  • Traffic transitionists and impact minimizers

Car designers today spend the vast majority of their time trying to optimize the driver experience. After all, the driver is the most important part of the ownership equation. As we enter the “driverless era,” the focus will shift to the passenger experience. Fancy dashboards displaying dazzling amounts of information for the driver will become a thing of the past as riders fuss over on-board movies, music, and massage controls.

Some fleet owners will offer car experiences that are more conversational in nature, pairing socially compatible riders in a way to maximize conversations and improve the social environment. Others will stress the benefits of alone-time, offering a peaceful zen-like experience for those wishing to escape the hustle and bustle of work-life.