Stick Shift: Autonomous Vehicles, Driving Jobs, and the Future of Work

At this moment, more than 30 companies across the globe say they are working on autonomous-vehicle technology. These companies range from computing-technology firms like Apple, Google, and Intel to those usually associated with automobile manufacturing[1] such as BMW, Ford, Honda, and Volvo.[2] Their most optimistic predictions are that in as few as three to five years,[3] fully autonomous vehicles—automobiles without human drivers—will be in regular use on the road.

Predictions vary about whether fully autonomous vehicles, Level 5 on the SAE International classification scale for autonomous-vehicle technology[4], will be introduced first. Yet, given the number of companies working to make improvements and the progress already made with Level 4 technology—which marks the stage when vehicles are classified as being capable of safely driving themselves in predictable spaces—it is highly possible that the technology will progress to Level 5 in the near future. Many economists, pundits, and companies are predicting just that…

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