Self-driving and electric cars will help create more than 100,000 US mobility industry jobs in the coming decade, including up to 30,000 jobs for engineers with degrees in computer-related subjects. But the demand could be as much as six times the expected number of such graduates, exacerbating the industry’s already significant talent shortage, according to research from Boston Consulting Group (BCG) and Detroit Mobility Lab (DML).
Cars of the future will be very different from today’s automobiles. By 2030, more than 20% of them will have plug-in hybrid or battery-powered electric engines, and more than 10% will be self-driving, excluding partially autonomous cars. As cars and other forms of mobility become more complex, they will require engineers with more sophisticated systems-level skills, according to BCG and DML.
Like the US mobility industry, other industries are modernizing and looking to attract and retain such engineers and skilled trade workers. “Companies cannot delay defining what their workforce needs will be for the next few years so they can begin to plan accordingly. Those that delay could find it difficult to compete,” said Xavier Mosquet, the Detroit-based BCG senior partner who led the research. “Jobs will also be created where talent is developed.”
The Mobility Industry Needs Not Just New Jobs but Also New Skills
Additional key findings of the research conducted by BCG and DML include the following:
- Over the next decade, the US mobility industry will need as many as 30,000 additional engineers with advanced-level skills just to work on self-driving and electric cars, and on smart-infrastructure innovations. Other emerging forms of mobility, including autonomous trucks and drones, could push the number of new positions even higher.
- Unlike today’s engineers who typically work on specific automotive components, such as engines or electronics, the interconnected nature of future automotive systems will require engineers who are cross-functional “tinkerers,” who have a strong foundation in mathematics and physics; deep skills in artificial intelligence, machine learning, robotics, data sciences, and software; and a passion for cars.
- The demand for engineers with cross-functional skills will exacerbate an ongoing talent shortage that already has motivated auto companies such as GM and Ford to pay high premiums to acquire startups whose workforces have those abilities. Recent layoffs at the major auto companies underscore how much talent requirements are changing.
- In addition to increasing the need for engineers, current mobility trends could create more than 65,000 jobs for skilled trade workers, including positions for AV and electric vehicle mechanics, and AV safety drivers. Moreover, industry changes could usher in several thousand additional jobs for remote-support staff for self-driving vehicles and fleet maintenance. Technology advancements will eliminate some existing jobs and require some staff to go through retraining or upskilling.
Cities Must Take Steps to Become Mobility Industry Talent Hubs
Cities that can develop and attract engineers and other talent with in-demand skills will become job magnets. Areas around, for example, Silicon Valley, Boston, and Pittsburgh already attract talent because of technology institutes located there that are doing mobility research, such as Stanford University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and Carnegie Mellon University, respectively. Traditional automakers that have located their own technology operations to these talent hubs include GM, which runs its Cruise Automation outpost in Silicon Valley, and auto parts manufacturer Aptiv, which opened a tech lab in Boston.
Automotive hubs such as Detroit and its surrounding areas have the potential to remain at the center of the expanding mobility industry. But they must develop more of the talent that the mobility industry needs in order to retain their standing. The Detroit area has already taken such steps, including supporting AV test facilities from American Center for Mobility and the University of Michigan’s Mcity. Ford recently announced it would turn a former railroad station in downtown Detroit into a 1.2 million square-foot smart-vehicle innovation hub. To go along with such activities, the city must also provide higher-education programs that produce graduates with the integrated engineering skills that the industry needs.
A more detailed report will be published later this year.