Studying the Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles on the Workforce

September 18, 2019 - Melissa Priebe, Kristen Parker, Shelia Cotten

Organizational psychologists Daisy Chang and Kevin Ford are part of a multidisciplinary research team from Michigan State University that will use a $2.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a four-year study examining the impacts of autonomous vehicles on the future workforce.

Shelia Cotten, professor in the Department of Media and Information, who is a leading expert on the use and impacts of emerging technologies, will lead the team, which will draw from organizational psychology, economics, sociology, geography, technology and transportation engineering.

Serving as co-principal investigators on the project are Elizabeth Mack, associate professor in the Department of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences, and Chu-Hsiang “Daisy” Chang, associate professor in the Department of Psychology.

“We are approaching the next phase of technological change where people will interact with autonomous machines in various contexts,” Mack 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.”

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

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

Researchers will help determine:

  • 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.

Drawing on insights from organizational psychology, researchers will explore challenges related to personnel competency, human resource decisions, training and development and career management. For the complete MSU Today article, click here