Jobs For the City of Tomorrow

By Benoit Morenne, The Wall Street Journal

Excerpt from “Jobs for the City of Tomorrow”

The Future of Everything covers the innovation and technology transforming the way we live, work and play, with monthly issues on healthmoneyartificial intelligence and more. This month is Cities & Real Estate, online starting June 4 and in the paper on June 11.

As urban areas expand and evolve, new professions will be needed, from vertical gardeners to charging-station valets.

Autonomous-Shuttle Attendant

Even as autonomous vehicles start to redefine urban mobility, a human presence on board could help reassure passengers who might otherwise feel uncomfortable riding alone in a driverless vehicle.

“We don’t like being observed just by CCTV,” says Marcus Enoch, a professor in transport strategy at Loughborough University in England.

Mass transit will also need to adapt to accommodate a growing senior population. Vehicles such as self-driving buses could be staffed with attendants trained to assist the elderly and people with disabilities, says Sarah Kaufman, associate director of the New York University Rudin Center for Transportation. These employees would be able to recognize a health emergency, including a stroke, and deliver medical care. “Having a human presence is important for this population to have someone to communicate with,” Ms. Kaufman says.

Some attendants could act as security at night, she says, and alert transportation authorities if mechanical issues arise. Others could help lug a passenger’s food cart or bags off an autonomous shuttle and onto a robot taxi or a drone, Dr. Enoch says.

Charging Station Valet

Drivers will have to learn to navigate a new infrastructure as electric cars start supplanting gas-powered vehicles and electric plugs replace gas stations.

These changes will spur the growth of an industry focused on providing users with charging-related services, says Bryan Reimer, a research scientist in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology Center for Transportation and Logistics. Car owners and municipalities will need to hire trained electricians with mechanical skills to install, maintain and repair private and public charging stations, he says.

Valets at public charging stations could assist drivers much like gas station attendants today, says NYU’s Ms. Kaufman. Car owners opting to recharge their vehicle by switching batteries out may get a subscription to have a worker go to their parking garage and do the swap, she says.