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Data: Brookings; Cartogram: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios

The transition to digital mobility — the diffusion of digital technology into every transportation product and service, including autonomous vehicles — will impact at least 9.5 million people already working in transportation-related occupations, according to a new Brookings report.

Why it matters: Every week brings announcements around technology breakthroughs, capital infusions and new consumer-facing services. But that news often distracts from a pressing need to develop the workforce that will create, manage and maintain AVs, in addition to overseeing the digital services and built environment around them.

Where it stands: The public conversation so far has been either too narrow, focusing on drivers alone, or too wide, sweeping up all workers who drive as part of their professional routine.

Reality check: The pool of workers who will be affected by digital mobility — from professional drivers to employees in the motor vehicle and transportation support industries — is bigger than sizable sectors like finance, real estate and administrative services.

  • And that's without counting the many people working in the computing and telecommunications industries on the R&D that will power new transportation technologies.
  • Critically, the transportation industry represents a core component of work in every state — not just those that manufacture vehicles or have a higher proportion of truck drivers. No state employs less than 5% of its workforce in mobility-related occupations.

The bottom line: AVs and digital mobility platforms are coming to market fast. Preparing the workforce for them will require partnerships among cities and states, educational institutions, civic organizations and private employers — and a clearer understanding of the jobs and skills that will be most in demand.

Adie Tomer is a fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program and leads its Metropolitan Infrastructure Initiative.

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