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MSU to study impacts of autonomous vehicles on the workforce

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Posted at 3:30 PM, Sep 19, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-19 15:32:06-04

LANSING, Mich. — MSU will be studying autonomous cars.

Specifically, the university will be focusing on the way autonomous cars will affect the workforce.

The university said a multidisciplinary research team from MSU will use a $2.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a four-year study looking at the impacts of autonomous vehicles on the future workforce.

The university said, Shelia Cotten, professor in the department of media and information and a leading expert on the use and impacts of upcoming technologies will be leading the team.

The university said the research team will have individuals from organization psychology, economics, sociology, geography, technology and transportation engineering.

“We are approaching the next phase of technological change where people will interact with autonomous machines in various contexts,” Elizabeth Mack, co-principal investigator on the project, said. “This project will help us understand these interactions and their impact on driving jobs, which is one of the first waves of workplaces expected to be impacted by this new wave of technologies.”

Cotten said the era of automated vehicles will bring changing job requirements for workers who use vehicles, leading to the replacement of workers.

The university said researchers will look at the following:
• How driving jobs will change in response to automation of vehicles and what new skills will be required.
• How willing and able workers are to adapt to the changing nature of driving jobs, and whether the changing nature of jobs will disadvantage some groups of workers more so than others.
• The anticipated downstream impacts on drivers (i.e., employment trends and income inequality) in the transportation industry, organizations and society.

“Our research project will help determine the specific skills and skill-sets needed to ensure that members of the current workforce, as well as the future workforce, are prepared for this transition,” Cotten said. “This project will also identify the impacts of this shift on workers’ lives, which has not been frequently a focus in past research."

The university said the team will use focus groups, surveys and skill mapping to help identify the driving jobs that are most at risk for worker displacement along with those jobs that will require retraining.

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