Autonomous vehicles will usher in the single greatest change in society since the Industrial Revolution. For this change to happen, Congress will need to deliver to President Trump a national autonomous vehicle framework bill that includes vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds.
Upon signature by President Trump, the autonomy economy will officially be launched to the benefit of society, creating millions of new jobs through sustained economic growth. The economic impact of autonomous vehicles and the autonomy ecosystem is projected to grow to $7 trillion by 2050.
The economic growth of the autonomy economy will create millions of new jobs and save the United States $871 billion in annual economic loss and societal harm caused by motor-vehicle accidents.
Today, the roads of America are dangerous. In 2015, an estimated 433,000 large trucks were involved in police-reported accidents, resulting in 4,067 fatalities, a 4 percent increase from 2014. Some 74 percent of these fatalities were occupants of other vehicles traveling on the road. In 2016, over 40,000 individuals perished in a motor-vehicle accident. Ninety-four percent of these accidents were caused by human error.
Over the next 20 years, the number of individuals dying on the roadways of America will dramatically decrease if there is an autonomous vehicle framework in place that permits Level 5 autonomous vehicles to travel over state lines.
When an autonomous vehicle framework is in place, the roads of America will become safer and society will welcome the autonomy economy. The autonomy economy is an evolution based upon B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore’s experience economy theory, which states that businesses will develop memorable experiences for their customers and the memory of those experiences will become the product.
While the term the “experience economy” was first introduced in 1998, the shift to an experience-based economy has happened over the last several years. B. Joseph Pine II and James H. Gilmore were ahead of their time in correctly predicting the evolution of the economy towards a service-based economy.
When Gov. Rick Scott of Florida signed one of the first autonomous vehicles laws in 2012 — HB 1207, allowing testing in the state — he successfully established the foundation for the autonomy economy. Investments being made by the private sector in autonomous cargo shipping, autonomous vehicles and autonomous drones, and the space industry are creating hundreds of thousands of high-paying jobs with a net positive impact on the Florida economy.
The foundation Gov. Scott has established in Florida is one that the United States can build and expand upon. With investments being made in Silicon Valley, Southern California; Arizona; Detroit, Michigan; Florida; and Nevada; and with foreign investments being made by Softbank and Foxconn, the groundwork for the autonomy economy is actively being developed in the United States.
To unleash the full potential of the autonomy economy, we have to believe in the American dream by not prejudging the technology and its supposed negative impact on jobs. Instead, we need to look back in history and study similar technological advancements.
The Industrial Revolution created tens of millions of more jobs than it replaced over the course of history, and the U.S. economy has grown and matured significantly since then. When new inventions were introduced, such as the electric-powered washing machine, there was an uproar over job loss. In fact, the washing machine went on to create more jobs than it replaced.
The fear of autonomous vehicles replacing jobs and not creating new jobs is a classic case of history repeating itself. For the introduction of new technologies, history is our greatest guide to predict the future.
While we do not yet know the full extent autonomy and autonomous vehicles will have on society, we do know that if the United States does not lead on autonomy, other countries will step up and autonomy jobs will ship overseas.
We are currently seeing this very scenario happening in Singapore as NuTonomy, a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based autonomous vehicle start-up, is testing their technology overseas. If an autonomous vehicle national framework is not passed, we could see this same scenario occur in China, as U.S.-based technology companies have a desire to expand into China to tap into the growing population.
Capitalizing on this desire, China could strategically allow Level 5 autonomous vehicles to operate on every road in the country. If this happened, China could overtake the United States as the leader in the development and testing of autonomous vehicles.
The World Health Organization estimates 260,000 individuals perish on the roads of mainland China every single year. With over 700 individuals perishing on the roads of mainland China every day, that government has a clear motive to allow Level 5 autonomous vehicles.
U.S.-based companies could off-shore their autonomous vehicle testing and investments benefiting the Chinese economy — not the U.S. economy — if Congress does not act.
It would behoove Congress to act and pass an autonomous vehicle national framework for the benefit of society. An autonomous vehicle national framework will create millions of high-paying U.S. jobs, thus having a positive impact on the economy.
It is time for America to come together and collectively usher in the autonomy economy for the benefit of all Americans.
• Grayson Brulte is the Co-Founder and President of Brulte & Company, an innovation advisory and consulting company that designs innovation and technology strategies for a global marketplace. @gbrulte.
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