1.2m jobs could be lost to automated vehicles with the next decade

driverless car

Human drivers on the road could soon become obsolete, according to new research

Driverless vehicles are growing in capability and popular among firms that traditionally employ large numbers of drivers, including food delivery and bus companies. Automation of driving jobs could trigger large-scale redundancies by as early as 2020.

Positions at risk

Although few UK motoring jobs have been automated to date, as many as 1.2m face a 67 per cent or higher probability of automation, representing up to £23.9bn in annual salaries.

Among professional drivers, only driving instructors have little to fear, with the 29,000 employed in the UK having only a 13 per cent chance of replacement with a machine1. Other careers might not be as lucky, such as:

  1. Food delivery drivers: The takeaway delivery industry is likely to see replacements across the board, with a 98 per cent chance of automation.
  2. Waste disposal workers: Binmen face a 93 per cent likelihood of having their roles replaced by a machine. Volvo showcased a prototype bin lorry that uses drones to identify nearby bins, although this wouldn’t completely replace the need for human workers.
  3. Forklift drivers: Automated forklifts are already commercially available, meaning that 88,000 workers employed in the UK may be working on borrowed time.
  4. Bus drivers: Mobility firm Navya tested driverless buses in East London and Heathrow Airport in 2017. Drivers can expect an 89 per cent chance of being replaced in the years to come.
  5. Taxi drivers: As with bus drivers, there have been moves to automate private transport services. Notably, Addison Lee has stated that the company intends to have automated vehicles deployed in London by 2021. In Tokyo, meanwhile, an autonomous taxi service began operation in August, transporting passengers along a set route.

Emergency services

Despite advances in driverless technology, jobs in the emergency services are less at risk, with police facing only a 10 per cent chance of full-scale replacement, ambulance drivers 25 per cent, and fire engine operators 42 per cent. It is likely that their additional skills will help protect their careers.

Insurance changes

Currently, those insuring their vehicles exclusively for work pay average premiums of £455 annually, while other drivers pay £702. Despite the lower cost, those driving for work still represent 25 per cent of all accidents on the roads, disproportionately high considering they only represent seven per cent of drivers.

Tom Flack, editor-in-chief at MoneySuperMarket, who commissioned the research, said, “Automation will bring massive changes across the whole of society and those who drive for a living may be among the first to feel its effects.

“Tests of driverless vehicles are well-advanced and are soon to be on the roads, with future positions in commercial usage already identified.

“If businesses see an opportunity to save money by making drivers redundant, they are likely to grab it, that’s the nature of competition. We can only hope that automation brings with it fresh employment opportunities for those whose existing roles disappear.”