These days, it seems not a week goes by without a new reminder of the ever-increasing advance of technology into our daily lives. This week, that reminder came in the form of a new series of guidelines for U.S. companies on the forefront of developing new driverless car technology. Key components of the guidelines unveiled Monday by the U.S. Transportation Department included recommendations for companies to take part in a 15-point safety assessment to help standardize vehicle testing procedures, fail-safe systems, and programming methods for compliance with existing traffic laws, and for companies to submit plans for countering potential threats from hackers. The recommendations also call for states to begin developing uniform policies for regulating driverless vehicles, including how to integrate new regulations into existing frameworks.
In recent years, there has been no shortage of predictions from economic forecasters about the looming wave of automated vehicles expected to replace human drivers on America’s roads in the coming decades. As this article from The Wall Street Journal explains, while the new recommendations do not amount to concrete regulations for the industry, they are the strongest signal yet that federal leaders are envisioning a transportation future where driverless technology is the new standard. For those of us in the business of keeping the economic pie growing here in North Carolina, the guidelines serve as a reminder that in these rapidly changing times, securing our state’s economic future will increasingly depend on our ability to anticipate new trends and act quickly to turn potential challenges into opportunities to support continued growth.
As you know, the NC Chamber Foundation has already been busy exploring the potential for emerging technologies to transform North Carolina’s infrastructure and economy. In addition to advances in driverless technology, the increased integration of advanced robotics into proven manufacturing processes is another innovation that is expected to dramatically impact the future lives and careers of North Carolinians. According to this excerpted report from Beyond the Connected Age: North Carolina in 2015 by NC State economist Michael Walden, nearly half of all occupations (44 percent) and total employees (48 percent) comprising our state’s workforce have a high probability of being replaced by technology in the coming years.
These changes will undoubtedly make for a number of challenging questions for pro-growth thinkers in North Carolina. But as the NC Chamber Foundation has continued to explore these trends, we have grown increasingly confident that our state is well-positioned to experience long-term benefits. For example, increasing efficiencies in manufacturing resulting from automation could ultimately allow more specialized factories to be located closer to consumer bases. This will serve to bring more jobs back home and bolster North Carolina’s diverse manufacturing industry.
Job creators are already playing a critical role in helping our state seize new opportunities here (click here to read about how NC Chamber member Caterpillar is engaging students with classroom exercises in programming for driverless technology, a key step for strengthening our future talent pipeline and closing the skills gap). More businesses will need to get involved on this front, however, if we hope to expand economic opportunities in all North Carolina communities. If you would like to get involved, or simply would like to find out more about the Chamber Foundation’s efforts to ensure the business community is fully engaged in providing solutions to our changing infrastructure and workforce needs, contact NC Chamber Policy Development Manager Cassi Zumbiel at email@example.com.
Gary J. Salamido
Vice President, Government Affairs
North Carolina Chamber