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Autonomous vehicles and the future of work in Canada (ICTC)

Autonomous vehicles (AVs) are set to be the next major technological breakthrough of the 21st century. The AV industry in Canada will create 34,700 new jobs between 2017 and 2021. However, Canada lags behind major automobile manufacturing countries such as the US, Japan, and Germany. The extent to which Canada can harness the positive impacts on employment in high-tech sectors from autonomous vehicles (e.g., automotive engineering, ICT in general) will depend crucially on the role Canada plays in the development of this new technology. Furthermore, the adoption of autonomous vehicle technology will generate new opportunities for inclusivity and economic participation for underrepresented groups — such as individuals with disabilities, Indigenous peoples, and people living in rural or remote areas — as long-distance travel becomes more manageable. AV adoption will also require a comprehensive retrofitting of our road infrastructure and changes to our traffic laws. Such changes will boost demand for civil engineers, urban and land use planners, consultants, and policy analysts. On the other side of the ledger, most driving jobs will be phased out as the technology improves. How fast this will happen depends on how efficiently various driving occupations can be automated. Although drivers make up only 0.5% of the Canadian labour force, they have, on average, the lowest level of education among workers affected by AV technology. Supporting these workers through a difficult period of transition should therefore be a social and economic priority. In addition to drivers, mechanics and other workers will need re-training, either to adapt to the changing skill demand of their occupation or to transition into other fields.