President Donald Trump will witness the automotive industry completely change during his administration. He will watch our collective idea of transportation be disrupted and changed in a way not seen since we abandoned the horse and buggy.
Autonomous vehicles are coming, and shared services are here to stay. While we may not have Level 5 autonomous vehicles -- with no human intervention required -- on the road four years from now, testing and innovation will continue at the current pace.
People will begin to rethink the idea of transportation, vehicle ownership, delivery and courier services and overall mobility over the next four years. The global mindset on transportation is changing, and there is no going back.
Trump and his team inevitably will confront further changes in our industry caused by the rise of autonomous vehicles. Here are four recommendations I would give to any member of government contemplating the future of our industry:
1. Acknowledge our industry's changing skill sets. This is beyond any concerns about manufacturing, free-trade agreements and the global supply chain. We must recognize and acknowledge that change is coming. It's necessary to take a proactive stance on reshaping the skill sets that are required in the future. Government plays a leading role in this process.
There may not even be fewer jobs in the industry on a net-net basis, but our industry will require totally different skill sets, training and education. The new jobs may require bachelor's (and in many cases, advanced) degrees in engineering, robotics, computer science and similar areas. We need to recognize this as an industry and as a country. Education and work-force training for our industry should be a priority.
2. Reduce potential complexity through regulation. National regulation can be a positive thing. Autonomous vehicle testing decisions currently are controlled at the state level. It remains to be seen whether there will be any national legislation and how advances in mobility will be evaluated by the federal government. Left to the states, there could be as many as 50 different rules for autonomous vehicle testing and usage. That could lead to a complex patchwork of state and local legislation that will significantly slow innovation in our industry.
Formal national guidelines set during the Obama administration are a proactive first step, but the new administration may need to consider regulatory oversight and leadership on autonomous vehicle legislation to make it easier for companies to test and deploy the new vehicles throughout the country.
3. Collaborate with companies. By working with companies, the Trump administration can craft business-friendly regulation to streamline and help progress in autonomous vehicles. There may be crisis situations caused by job losses from shifting skill sets and possible injuries, property damage or loss of life from unforeseen circumstances involving autonomous vehicles. Anything is possible with new technology and innovation, even the worst of scenarios.
Without formal laws on the books, companies will continue to push testing and deployment of self-driving vehicles, moving ahead without the full blessing of state and local regulators as we have recently seen in San Francisco. If the new administration collaborates with companies and encourages open dialogue with businesses in our industry, we can collectively prevent and mitigate crises whenever possible in the age of social media and the 24/7 news cycle.
4. Encourage American progress. While our industry is global, candidate Trump and his team spoke frequently during the campaign about protecting American jobs and American workers in our industry. That can be done by keeping testing vibrant and active within our borders, fostering innovation, attracting the right talent and ensuring we have the technical knowledge and expertise that we need in our industry at companies throughout America. As it was in the space race of the 1960s, America can and should be a leader in the next phase of transportation that will affect all of mankind.
In 2017, we will see a bigger push and more of a proliferation of shared services and autonomous vehicle testing.
Traditional automakers and other corporations are recognizing the need to invest in mobility, with several launching mobility-specific spinoff companies and subsidiaries in 2016.
There will be plenty more in 2017 and the years to come.
This is the future of our industry. Are we ready for it? And, more important, are our elected leaders ready for it?