Not too long ago I mentioned bus drivers in passing in a post about how technology was slowly eroding certain jobs. Bus drivers are an appealing (i.e. profitable) target for self-driving car technology, much more so than offering self-driving cars to consumers.
Sure enough, the decline of the bus driver has already started – Singapore is testing a fleet of driver-less electric shuttles that look like a large golf cart.
Is this the beginning of the end of the bus driver? Most likely, yes, just as farriers must have seen the writing on the wall at the end of the 19th century. Is this a good or bad thing? That will depend on whether the ex-bus drivers will be able to find different jobs with equal or better pay. Not all farriers went on to become auto mechanics, and the skillset of a bus driver isn’t obviously transferable to another job.
And that’s the catch – when the industrial revolution changed the employment landscape, it didn’t eliminate the possibility of working altogether. When fabric looms became mechanized, weavers simply started using those new tools. What’s happening in the digital revolution is different – jobs aren’t being changed, they are being made obsolete.
Bus drivers, like assembly-line workers not too long ago, are the canaries in the coalmine. Job obsoletion isn’t yet widespread enough to cause much alarm in the population at large, but it would be a good idea to figure out what happens next before it does.