Hobbs Announces $1.7M in Funding for STEM Programs at Pima Community College

By Sarah Lapidus, azcentral.

Gov. Katie Hobbs announced $1.7 million in state funding was invested in Pima Community College’s workforce development in science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs.

Part of that funding helped build the Automotive Technology and Innovation Center, a new facility that trains future automotive technicians located at the college’s downtown campus in Tucson. This year’s state budget also appropriated $2 million for the college’s operations.

Before Hobbs’ tour of the automotive facility, she spoke about Arizona’s place as the “epicenter” of emerging technologies like semiconductors, electric vehicles and aerospace, among others, and the role community colleges play in training a workforce for these jobs.

“To keep the pace, the state will need to have opportunities for postsecondary education and training that prepares Arizonans for these jobs,” Hobbs said, standing in the automotive training center, amid rows of trucks and cars, with hoods open revealing their engines.

She said this was the first time the college received state funding since 2015.

The Automotive Technology and Innovation Center is a two-story, 50,000-square-foot building that opened in 2021. It houses automotive technology programs in diesel, electric and autonomous vehicles and training for brands like Ford, Fiat-Chrysler and Subaru.

The $35 million Advanced Manufacturing facility is 100,000 square feet and houses programs in mining technology, manufacturing, metalworking, robotics, machine technology and more.

Hobbs said these training programs help meet industry demands and will help attract more companies to Arizona.

“If we have the workforce, we will continue to attract the companies,” she said.

Hobbs reiterated the importance of community colleges to Arizona’s education system and economy, noting how funding for Pima College ensures that state funding helps all corners of Arizona, not only in the capital.

“Investing those dollars here to invest in the workforce will help bring those opportunities here to Pima County and Tucson,” Hobbs said.

Programs like these at Pima Community College and other community colleges allow more people to access education and find better paying jobs, helping grow the state’s economy, she said.

“We’re committed to continuing to invest in our community colleges, which are a critical piece of Arizonans being able to access better jobs, better pay, better quality of life,” she said.

The Truckers of Tomorrow

By Mindy Long, Transport Topics

In the years ahead, the essential task of hauling the nation’s freight and keeping the economy rolling will increas­ingly shift to a new generation of professional truck drivers.

Attracting workers to step into those roles remains a long-standing challenge for trucking companies, but somehow fleets will need to bring in younger drivers to keep pace with projected freight growth and offset the wave of retirements headed their way as their existing workforce ages.

To accomplish this, fleet operators must find ways to recruit from a broader labor pool and meet the lifestyle preferences and work expectations of future drivers.

Several industry leaders said younger workers expect more from a driving career, including flexible schedules, a clear career path and a sense of belonging.

“Ultimately, it’s going to come down to culture, work-life balance and stability,” said Pat Udovich, chief human resources officer at less-than-truckload carrier A. Duie Pyle. “Culture has become king — rightfully so — and we do not see that changing as the next generation comes onboard.”

On a list of drivers’ priorities, work-life balance has always been a close second to pay, but the younger generation is pushing that level of importance even higher.

“A growing percentage of candidates are even opting for lower-paying jobs with a larger amount of home time or flexibility in taking home time,” said Chris Polenz, vice president of recruiting at truckload carrier Werner Enterprises.

Fleets are adjusting their operations and implementing technology to help provide that flexibility.

Werner, for one, uses its mobile app to match drivers with their needs.

“We have a ‘career opportunities’ tab on our Driver Werner Pro App allowing drivers to search for existing accounts that meet their work-life balance,” Polenz said. “From there, they can select to be added to those wait lists or talk to a career center specialist at any time to discuss their requests.”

Werner, based in Omaha, Neb., ranks No. 17 on the Transport Topics Top 100 list of the largest for-hire carriers in North America.

Dee Dee Cox, vice president of human resources at Old Dominion Freight Line, said the LTL carrier has been getting more creative in planning its drivers’ schedules.

That requires open and honest communication regarding the company’s and employees’ needs, starting during the interview process, she said. “What is the driver looking for in the long term? Is it OK if the driver is off on Tuesday and Wednesday? Do those days actually work better for home life, or are they looking for a Saturday-Sunday reset?”

A. Duie Pyle offers LTL and dedicated driving jobs that help prospective candidates align with their schedules outside of work, Udovich said.

Getting home daily is a huge sell to many who want to be present for events outside of work, whether it’s their kid’s baseball game or high school graduation, he added.

A. Duie Pyle, based in West Chester, Pa., ranks No. 66 on the for-hire TT100 list.

Despite the push for more home time and flexibility, some young drivers don’t mind being out on the road for longer stretches.

Andy Turi, a 23-year-old driver who joined Brenny Transportation about a year ago, prefers to be on the road. Turi earned his commercial driver license at 18 and worked in regional operations until turning 21.

“Becoming an OTR driver became more enticing because I could live in my truck and get paid,” Turi said. “I have saved tens of thousands of dollars.”

While it was the pay that ­initially attracted him to the industry, his appreciation for trucking has expanded beyond that.

“I’m not doing it for the money anymore,” Turi said. “I like being by myself and getting paid to go places I haven’t been before.”

Garner Trucking, based in Findlay, Ohio, is primarily an over-the-road carrier whose drivers typically spend four to five days overnight in their trucks.

CEO Sherri Garner Brumbaugh said the company sometimes loses drivers to home-daily opportunities, but adjusting freight transportation networks, when possible, can boost retention.

“Relaying, slip seating OTR operations and drop-hook keep a driver moving and not sitting. Creativity many times brings efficiencies to your operation as well,” said Brumbaugh, who is a past chair of American Trucking Associations. “At Garner, we have multiple driving schedules an individual can choose from. Unlike my father’s generation that lived to work, this generation and mine is ‘work to live.’ ”

Pay remains a high priority for drivers, but Brumbaugh has found that experiences also matter to younger employees.

“The trucking industry should be able to provide both — good pay and the experience to see the country,” she said. “Marketing those stories is key.”

Attracting Younger Drivers

The average age of a new entrant into the trucking industry continues to hover between 35 and 38 years old, but younger people oftentimes are in a better position to take on longhaul jobs, said Jeremy Reymer, CEO of DriverReach, a provider of driver recruiting software.

“The best time for a worker’s willingness to be away from home for extended periods of time is when they’re young and have little to no responsibilities or other obligations that would otherwise preclude them from such a working dynamic,” Reymer said.

Brenny Transportation, which is based in St. Joseph, Minn., has focused on recruiting ­younger drivers and got involved with a young-driver training program through the Minnesota Trucking Association.

“We can bring them on locally at 18 years old until they’re of the age to leave the state,” said company founder and CEO Joyce Brenny, who emphasized the carrier’s safety rating and its slow, graduated training process.

Lowering the minimum age for interstate truck drivers from 21 to 18 also could bring more young people into the industry.

Garner Trucking’s Brumbaugh urged carriers to participate in the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s three-year Safe ­Driver Apprenticeship Pilot Program.

“The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act requires the ­FMCSA to establish an apprenticeship pilot program that would allow drivers between the ages of 18-20 with an intrastate commercial driver license to operate interstate, but it requires a trucking company to follow rigid rules to participate,” she said.

While becoming a participating carrier and apprentice trainer can be challenging, Brumbaugh said it is necessary.

“If we as an industry fail to participate, we will be the barrier ourselves to attracting a younger generation to our beloved trucking industry,” she said.

Lindsey Trent, president and co-founder of the Next Generation in Trucking Association, said the industry can’t wait until potential hires reach the age of 18. Instead, it has to find ways to engage young people early in their high school careers.

“They are getting bombarded from other industries — welding, plumbing and electricians — and trucking needs to be a part of the conversations too,” Trent said.

The Gen Z workforce is smaller, and skilled trade jobs are growing, she added. “Pair that with the aging workforce that is retiring, and that could equal disaster for our future.”

NextGen Trucking works with student organizations and presents trucking careers to school guidance counselors.

“We have careers that are high skill, high wage and high demand, but young people need to be educated about them in order to be attracted to them,” Trent said.

One of the challenges is that more teenagers are graduating from high school without a driver’s license.

“Acquiring a CDL builds upon an individual’s personal driving record,” Garner Trucking’s Brumbaugh said. “Trucking companies should work collaboratively with our communities to share the importance of obtaining a driver’s license.”

A More Diverse Workforce

Women can play a large part in expanding the industry’s labor pool.

Ellen Voie, founder of Women In Trucking, a nonprofit organization promoting opportunities for women in the transportation industry, said women represent nearly 14% of all over-the-road drivers, and she expects that number to increase.

“More and more women are seeing the opportunity to earn a middle-class income while being able to travel,” she said.

NextGen Trucking’s Trent said young people need to see female role models in trucking and know they are welcome in this industry.

“We need to actively put that messaging out there,” she said.

Attracting employees from across diverse demographics also can help strengthen the industry’s workforce.

“Every person can come into the trucking industry, and there should be no barriers because of gender, race or identity,” Garner Trucking’s Brumbaugh said.

Voie believes there will be more Hispanic drivers and more drivers from Eastern European countries.

“There have been a lot of refugees entering the country, and if we can embrace their customs and accommodate them, we can train them to become ­professional drivers,” she said.

Touting Technology

The advance of technology in the trucking industry can be a valuable tool for attracting new employees.

Old Dominion Freight Line emphasizes the technology installed in a modern truck when meeting with high school students and potential workers in Gen Z, Cox said.

“When we have on-site career fairs, it is important for potential hires to see the equipment they will be working with,” she said. “Once they see the technology, their eyes open up as this is not something they expected.”

ODFL, based in Thomasville, N.C., ranks No. 10 on the for-hire TT100.

Rich Johnson, vice president of school operations at Werner, said technology is a differentiator.

“The next generation has a higher expectation on how ‘connected’ they are to their com­pany, whether it is company apps, in-cab communications or ways for family to stay connected with them while they are on the road,” he said.

Offering More Than a Job

Younger people are increasingly interested in career progression opportunities.

“Gen Z wants to see defined career paths and what you will do as a company to invest in your employees and their future,” NextGen Trucking’s Trent said. “Do you provide a mentorship program, ongoing training or tuition reimbursement? Gen Z wants to work for a company that cares about them and that will develop them.”

Jim Mayer, senior director of media relations and network communications at UPS Inc., said the company fills most of its driver positions by training and promoting from within.

New employees typically are hired to handle packages in UPS facilities.

“After some time in that role, they can bid and train for full-time positions as drivers,” Mayer said. “For those who want to advance their career, the sky is the limit. Our previous CEO, David Abney, started his career loading trucks in Mississippi.”

UPS ranks No. 1 on the for-hire TT100.

Alyssa and Brittney Strickland, 30-year-old twin sisters, ­started with UPS handling packages and then earned their CDLs. Today they work for the company as supervisors within its Class 8 “­feeder” operations.

“A lot of young people are willing to go into this area, but they don’t know about it,” Alyssa Strickland said, adding that 21-year-olds can take advantage of great opportunities immediately. “We give them that free training, and they can get their CDL.”

Two of A. Duie Pyle’s best recruiting tools are its truck driving academy and leadership development program.

“We want to give all our em­ployees, not just drivers, the opportunity to continue to grow and expand their skill sets,” Udovich said.

Many of today’s drivers want a potential pathway to a career outside of the truck, such as in dispatch, maintenance, ­safety or some other management function, DriverReach’s Reymer ­explained.

Werner’s Polenz said many of Werner’s professional drivers have leveraged their driving experience into nondriving jobs in its safety and operations departments.

Having a CDL can add value to those in other positions.

“It is easier to dispatch when you know what is going on,” Brittney Strickland said. “A CDL is a great thing to have even if you don’t use it.”

Isabella Johnson, 18, ­recently earned her CDL and works at Concrete Products in Rhine­lander, Wis. She doesn’t plan to work in over-the-road trucking right now but might someday and thought a CDL would give her flexibility.

“I work with big machinery, and I wanted to be able to haul what­ever I wanted whenever I ­needed,” she said.

Emphasizing Culture

Company culture is essential to attracting and retaining drivers who want to feel like they are part of a team.

“They deserve information about what is happening, ­changes that are coming, and how the company is doing,” ODFL’s Cox said. “Sometimes, I think that aspect can be overlooked as we get caught up in the day-to-day, but it is essential drivers know what is going on with the company and know they play a crucial role in its success.”

Brenny has found that younger workers are tired of hierarchies.

“I’m not saying they shouldn’t earn their stripes, but they want it known that they have a voice and are part of the team,” she said.

Many members of Gen Z also seek out opportunities to give back to society.

Brenny Transportation taps into that with its “Haul of Fame,” which highlights essential products the company has hauled.

“We talk about the difference they’re making and the lives that they are making better,” Brenny said. “Talking about those things is inspiring, and they need to have that sense of purpose and how important their job is.”

4 Ways Unique Partnerships are Helping Build the Next Generation Tech Workforce

By Valerie Singer, World Economic Forum

  • Tech workforce challenges are creating barriers to innovation for public and private sector organizations.
  • Innovative partnerships can help close the technical skills gap and build better pathways to in-demand jobs.
  • We explore four ways to unlock career opportunities and address the global skills gap.

Government, education, and virtually every industry face tech workforce challenges that can lead to barriers preventing public and private sector organizations from expanding and building operational efficiencies. Intentional partnerships can help accelerate solutions that prepare learners with the skills needed to meet the demands of today’s technological advances, as well as the future of work.

In a 2022 global Gallup study of 30,000 workers and 9,300 employers in 19 countries, advanced digital skills were highly valued. Companies that employ advanced digital workers – such as cloud engineers and software developers – are about 50% more likely to report innovating in the past two years than companies that only use basic digital technologies.

Additionally, 66% of companies that run some or most of their business in the cloud reported innovating products or services in the past two years, a rate five times higher than companies that do not currently use the cloud.

As digital transformation continues to drive business growth and improve how we live, work, and learn, organizations need skilled technical talent to stay competitive. Developing that talent and ensuring training is aligned to in-demand skills will take collaborative and intentional ingenuity that can only be accomplished when education, industry, and government work together.

  1. Collaborating with government to increase access to tech skills training

Agile and equitable upskilling and reskilling efforts are critical and can unlock opportunities for early career talent to enter the tech workforce and enable current workers to build new careers. Collaborating with government leaders enables training programmes to scale across countries, regions, and states to reach vast amounts of learners.

In Kenya, the Information Communication Technology (ICT) Authority, a state corporation under the Ministry of Information Communication and Technology, and Amazon Web Services (AWS) are creating new opportunities for Kenyan workers and expanding the funnel of local talent so businesses can thrive. ICT and AWS will upskill 10,000 students across ten universities using AWS Academy through this collaboration.

Many states are interested in rapidly growing their technology sector in the US. Their willingness to move fast to meet the demand creates a strong foundation to develop statewide training and education initiatives. Working closely with leaders to understand their workforce development needs, AWS offers a range of education programmes to help communities solve their skills gaps and build economic prosperity. AWS has launched more than 13 statewide initiatives between education systems, government agencies, policy leaders, economic development organizations, and employers to develop opportunities for thousands of residents to take advantage of various pathways to cloud jobs.

  1. Bridging the skills gap in curriculum

A culture of lifelong learning is the foundation for innovation and is driven both by formal education and other forms of training. When individuals embrace this approach, the idea that learning should end at some point is replaced with a lifelong learning mindset where the exploration of certifications, stackable credentials, real-world training programmes, and more are important. However, as individuals adopt new ways of learning over the course of their careers and lifetimes, education institutions need to adapt quickly to the fast-changing world we live in today. Education in partnership with industry can help better prepare learners for a digital economy through curriculum modernization.

The Regional Ministry of Education and Sports under Junta de Andalucía, the regional government of Andalusia in Spain, wanted to update its higher vocational IT degree for public education to match the real-world requirements of employers. In September 2021, the governing body launched a new cloud computing curriculum as part of its higher vocational IT degree training – the first regional agreement of its kind in Spain. Junta de Andalucía aligned its curriculum with content from AWS Education Programs and trained over 700 educators across Andalusia in cloud computing. The governing body plans to introduce 6,000 students across 105 schools to the curriculum by 2023.

  1. Building pathways to tech careers

The demand for skilled technical talent doesn’t just impact tech-focused enterprises. Organizations across various sectors and industries must fill roles in software development, cloud architecture, data science, cyber security, cloud support engineers, and more. Employers have an important role in this effort by advising, creating in-roads to open positions, and investing in the future workforce to ensure learners have the right skills to fill in-demand jobs.

In March 2023, AWS and Siemens started collaborating on tech apprenticeships in Germany. Siemens integrated cloud curriculum, hands-on labs, and gamified learning with AWS Skill Builder and AWS Cloud Quest into Siemens IT apprenticeships. This collaboration will also result in apprenticeships for two cloud data centre roles in Frankfurt, further expanding hands-on opportunities for learners and creating a funnel of career-ready talent for local companies.

  1. Accelerating learning through work-based skills training

Integrating skills-based learning into traditional education pathways allows learners to obtain credentials with practical skills that are highly relevant to employers. AWS powers Cloud Innovation Centers (CICs) across the world that are normally based at higher education institutions that enable students to engage in project-based learning. Learners develop and apply skills to have a direct impact on how public sector organizations operate and serve the community.

The University of British Columbia (UBC) CIC uses a practical approach to teaching computer science and technical skills by applying student innovation and a full range of cloud services to real-world problems in a process the university calls work-integrated learning. Students accepted into the UBC CIC co-op program spend four to eight months working on a project that impacts health, the environment, education, and other public interest issues.

These collaborative initiatives unite leaders around a common goal: addressing the global skills gap at scale. In each of these engagements, education institutions experienced a simplified process to modernize their tech curriculum, educators were equipped to start teaching new tech concepts better aligned to in-demand jobs, and learners gained hands-on experience to strengthen the tech talent pipeline for employers.

When we approach the global skills gap by addressing perspectives from education, government, and industry, we can create a multi-dimensional solution through various partnerships that meet unique needs.

Restaffing The Self-Driving Space: Moving Past Traditional Recruitment

By Syed Talha Masood, Forbes Technology Council

Self-driving cars were science fiction a few years ago, but most technologically advanced nations now have autonomous automobiles—making this once-impossible fantasy a reality.

Self-driving cars have conquered the automotive sector with significant expenditures and achievements but still need to scale due to many problems. The most prominent issue that stands out is rapid technological advancement and expertise.

The self-driving space works by the motto of autonomy, so why not recruit with the same vision and scale as the talent cloud by tapping into a large talent pool to be faster in the market?

Where The Self-Driving Space Is Heading

The self-driving space has been driven by various factors, including technological advancements, increased investment and changing consumer attitudes. As the industry continues to mature, it has the potential to revolutionize the way we think about transportation and mobility.

Here are some trends surrounding critical investments, consumer behavior and advancement when it comes to the rise of the autonomous vehicle industry.

  • 26% of consumers have a favorable view of self-driving vehicles after Covid-19.
  • The global autonomous vehicle industry is expanding by 16% annually.
  • As of 2020, companies had spent roughly $16 billion on automated vehicles.
  • Self-driving cars could reduce driving fatalities by 94%.

The Challenges Of Scaling And Talent Gap In The Self-Driving Space

Several tech and automobile organizations are working on their versions of autonomous driving technology to roll it out globally. However, expansion may need to accelerate because of a need for more skills to access local data. In short, there is space for more advancement and technology in the self-driving area that awaits a new wave of technology.

There is currently no fully autonomous car on the market produced by a commercial entity. However, given AI’s reliance on massive data, relocating will be easier than starting from scratch. All in all, the only solution for the scalability of the self-driving space is a talent pool that innovates.

The automotive sector is predicted to face a global shortage of 2.3 million skilled workers by 2025 and 4.3 million by 2030. The skills that are in high demand in the self-driving space include robotics, artificial intelligence (AI), software engineering, electrical and mechanical engineering, data analysis, cybersecurity and regulatory compliance

The self-driving industry is relatively new and highly competitive. As a result, the collection of people with experience in this field still needs to grow. This makes finding qualified candidates with the necessary skills and expertise to work on these complex systems time-consuming and challenging.

Moreover, it is highly competitive, with many companies vying for a limited pool of available talent. The competition drives up salaries and benefits, making it challenging for smaller companies to attract and retain top talent. Additionally, 80% of employers say they are having difficulty finding skilled workers, and 52% of recruiters say they are most interested in candidates with a STEM degree.

Successfully Transitioning To And Leveraging The Talent Cloud

The demand for new skills and expertise is increasing as the automotive industry evolves, which could make tapping into the talent cloud challenging. However, leveraging the talent cloud and keeping up with the pace of rapidly changing technology may seem more complicated than it is.

Here are some critical steps to ensure a smooth transition.

  • Identify the skills and expertise needed to meet the company’s goals and objectives instead of just assessing the workforce. This can help AV makers target their talent acquisition efforts and attract the right talent from the talent cloud.
  • Partnering with educational institutions and offering internships, apprenticeships or other training programs can help the AV industry build a pipeline of skilled and qualified talent.
  • The talent cloud offers access to a vast talent pool. Leverage machine learning and AI-powered recruitment platforms to source and assess candidates.
  • Consider offering flexible work arrangements such as remote work options, flexible hours or job-sharing. This can help attract top talent that values flexibility and work-life balance.
  • AV industries must invest in their employees’ constant learning and development. Offer training, mentoring and coaching opportunities to help employees develop new skills and grow in their careers.
  • Foster a culture of innovation where employees are encouraged to take risks, experiment and explore new ideas.
  • Continuously monitor and assess the performance of their new hires from the talent cloud. It will help them identify areas for improvement and make any necessary adjustments to their talent management practices.

The self-driving space is heading toward significant growth, increased investment, changing consumer attitudes and technological advancements. However, the industry faces scaling challenges due to the requirement for more talent with the necessary expertise.

By adopting a holistic workforce strategy, the self-driving space can overcome these challenges and smoothly transition into the talent cloud, enabling it to innovate and scale faster in the market. The future of self-driving technology is bright, and with the right talent and expertise, we can revolutionize how we think about transportation and mobility.

Autonomous Cars Could Help Bring Millions of People with Disabilities into the Workforce, Reduce Federal Spending

By Matt Gonzales, SHRM

Traversing a big city like Washington, D.C., can be difficult for people with disabilities—just ask Amy Scherer.

Scherer, a senior staff attorney with the National Disability Rights Network (NDRN), uses a wheelchair and has some visual limitations that prevent her from driving. While the District of Columbia has wheelchair-accessible cabs, their availability has declined since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

“Sometimes I have no choice but to work remotely simply because of transportation barriers, even though I live in a large, urban city,” she said. “I have had to miss both professional and personal engagements simply because the meeting location was not on the Metro line, and there were no available wheelchair-accessible cabs at that time. I literally had no other options.”

A lack of reliable transportation makes getting to and from work challenging for employees with disabilities. It has also served as a significant barrier to employment for many of them, contributing to an unemployment rate double that of individuals without disabilities.

However, a recent report suggested that the widespread availability of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could alleviate this ongoing issue, boost employment for people with disabilities and strengthen the broader economy.

The study, by the National Disability Institute (NDI), revealed that widely available, reliable and affordable self-driving cars would bring 9.2 million more workers into the workforce. This includes 4.4 million direct jobs for individuals with a disability.

The expansion of AVs, the study indicated, would generate nearly $93 billion in annual federal tax revenue—including new personal income tax, social security tax, excise tax and customs duties. It would also reduce federal spending by $27.8 billion, including reductions in spending from Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance programs due to increased wages for people with disabilities.

Thomas Foley, the NDI’s executive director, expressed excitement for the potential impact of the technology and how it could begin to eliminate a critical barrier to employment for millions of people with disabilities.

“Simply put, fully accessible and autonomous vehicles hold the promise to be a complete economic game-changer for millions of people with disabilities and their families,” he said.

How Have AVs Fared in Trial Runs?

The NDI study focused on Level 4 and Level 5 AVs. Level 4 vehicles are “self-driving” under most conditions, though a human can remotely operate the vehicle if necessary. Level 5 AVs do not require human attention and could be used by individuals with a disability regardless of whether they hold a driver’s license.

Manufacturing companies Cruise—a subsidiary of General Motors, which commissioned the study—and Waymo deploy several Level 4 robotaxis in San Francisco and Phoenix, although they are not customized specifically for people with disabilities. The current technology has had mixed results thus far.

GM and Cruise are designing a version of the taxi to serve people who use wheelchairs and those who otherwise need extra assistance. There is no timetable for their availability.

Ford CEO Jim Farley said in a statement, “Profitable, fully autonomous vehicles at scale are a long way off.”

Kenneth Shiotani, senior staff attorney for the NDRN, explained that the expansion of AVs has been “just around the corner” for many years, but several companies that manufacture AVs have gone out of business in the last year.

He added that “all or a very significant percentage” of Level 4 and Level 5 AVs would need to be accessible for individuals who use wheelchairs, like public transit buses are today, to employ millions more people with disabilities.

“If the supply of AVs was adequate, and if fares were modest, then I think one of the major barriers to employment [for people with disabilities] would be removed,” Shiotani said.

Further Development Needed

The NDI study noted that 38 states have passed legislation or have had executive orders enacted that permit AV testing, but many of these states still lack associated regulation for commercially deploying these vehicles.

GM has asked the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to raise the cap on the number of vehicles it can deploy.

“Policy adjustments are needed to further AV testing that will inform adoption and manufacturing at scale of these accessible transportation solutions,” Foley said.

Shiotani said employers could partner with AV transportation companies or transit agencies to help their own workers with disabilities travel to the office—much like how technology companies have provided luxury buses to their workers in Silicon Valley.

Organizations could also publicly advocate for AVs that are fully accessible to all passengers, especially people who use wheelchairs, he said.

“When Level 4 and 5 AVs become more ubiquitous, they have the potential to make transportation for people with disabilities in rural areas that cannot financially support public transit systems much better because the significant part of the cost of public transit is the operators, and Level 4 and 5 AVs will make operators unnecessary for many rural trips,” Shiotani explained.

Scherer believes the potential and widespread availability of AVs can have a positive impact on workers with disabilities for years to come.

“I would welcome the opportunity to use safe, reliable AVs in the future,” she said. “Hopefully, they would be more plentiful than wheelchair-accessible taxis and provide another transportation option for those of us who are unable to drive.”

Can Self-Driving Technology Solve the Supply Chain Crisis?

By VB Staff,

Trucking is the lifeblood of the American economy, an industry worth almost $875 billion a year in the U.S. alone. That’s about 4% of the U.S. economy. Over the last few years, the supply chain crisis has impacted everyone, with essentials like construction materials, diapers and milk suddenly becoming scarce in stores.

There are many reasons for the supply chain crisis of the last three years, but a critical cause of bare store shelves is that trucking faces an accelerating set of challenges.  The trucking industry faces a significant labor shortage — 80,000 drivers short, in fact, which is expected to grow to a shortage of 160,000 drivers by 2030. Companies are also facing recruitment and retention problems, with some estimates suggesting that fleets today are struggling with 100% turnover. But the technology to ease the crisis is already on the road.

“Autonomy and automation are going to be what solve the challenges around filling those long-haul jobs,” says Don Burnette, co-founder and CEO at Kodiak Robotics. “And the current supply chain crisis has put a spotlight on how self-driving trucking technology like the Kodiak Driver has the potential to help make the transportation infrastructure more efficient, and also more resilient.”

Kodiak has already announced partnerships with leading carriers and shippers including IKEA, Werner Enterprises, U.S. Xpress, 10 Roads Express and CEVA Logistics. With these partners Kodiak is moving goods across Dallas, and to Oklahoma, Florida and Atlanta.

How automation is filling the gaps in the truck industry

From reliability to job creation, safety and sustainability, automation will have an enormous positive impact across the supply chain, Burnette says. Here’s a look at what automated fleets can do.


More than 4,000 Americans died in accidents involving commercial trucks in 2018. Estimates suggest that more than 90% of those accidents were due to human error.

“Safety is mission-critical,” Burnette says. “Whether we’re running a simulation, testing our hardware or software, or putting our trucks on the road, we hold ourselves and each other to the highest safety standards in trucking, self-driving or otherwise. We optimize 100% for safety.”

An automated driver will never text and drive, drive drunk, or get distracted or drowsy. And because self-driving trucks are more predictable, staying largely in the right lane and maintaining a steady speed, other motorists on the road are going to find that they’re more comfortable around self-driving trucks than they would be around traditional trucks, or even other drivers.

That steady, reliable speed and trajectory can also reduce traffic. Autonomous trucks can avoid busy highways at busy times, drive at night as effectively as they do during the day and avoid busy city centers during rush hour. That dramatically reduces congestion and improves traffic.


The dividends for the efficiency of automated trucks, driving nearly 24/7, is tremendous, Burnette says.

“Our trucks will be able to deliver a load across the country in two days, whereas today it takes four,” he explains. “Think about how that affects the shipper. Think about how that affects inventory. You can start to compete with air freight in that sense at a significantly lower cost. This will create cheaper expedited freight than we have today, and those benefits are going to trickle across the supply chain, across the ecosystem.”

And because these trucks also optimize for fuel consumption, they’re significantly more fuel efficient than human-driven ones — even when operating the traditional diesel trucks in use today. A recent study from UCSD estimates there’s roughly a 10% reduction in fuel consumption for self-driving vehicles, which is a huge win for carriers and private fleets.


Drivers today are restricted to 11 hours per day of driving, and the average long-haul driver spends about seven hours per day behind the wheel. In contrast, autonomous trucks will be able to drive nearly 24/7. They only have to stop to refuel, to receive standard maintenance and to pick up and drop off trailers. That will double or triple the utilization of these trucks, and immediately have a dramatic effect on alleviating the pressure in the supply chain.

Asset utilization is also an especially meaningful metric for shippers and carriers, as they’re only earning when trucks are moving. Being able to operate nearly 24/7 makes trucks more productive and helps freight move faster.

Job creation

Automating long-haul trucking will create more sustainable local and regional jobs, which are the jobs that most drivers actually want to do. One of the reasons it’s so hard to find drivers today is that it is rare anyone wants to spend days and weeks out on the road away from home and from their families.

“We want to create a hub and spoke model where we drive between highway-adjacent hubs,” Burnette explains. “Humans will transfer the trailers to manually driven tractors, and then use human drivers to drive the first and last mile.”

The technology under the hood

The Kodiak Driver, leveraging a unique sensor fusion system and lightweight mapping solution, is purpose-built for trucks on highways. The Kodiak Robotics team has worked on both autonomous cars and trucks, and know from experience that the specifications and operating domain are just not the same.

“We’ve highly optimized our system for this very narrow application, and that has allowed us to make an incredible amount of progress in less time than our competitors while also spending less money,” Burnette says. “We’ve been able to be much more capital efficient with this approach than a lot of our competitors have.”

Mapping in real time

Kodiak relies on its own proprietary, flexible mapping solution called Sparse Maps. Sparse Maps are easy to build, easy to deploy broadly, and especially suited for the highway environment. Rather than relying on HD maps, Sparse Maps is a much lighter-weight mapping system that puts more focus on perceiving the environment in real time, detecting and reacting to the environment, instead of relying on stored map data which can easily go out of date.

Innovative sensor pod technology

Kodiak’s SensorPod system contains virtually all of the truck’s sensors within a single modular pod, replacing the truck’s stock side-view mirrors. Unlike traditional autonomous sensor systems, Kodiak’s SensorPods come pre-built and pre-calibrated, so they can be changed without any specialized training or equipment — which means they can be serviced quickly out on the open road, as easily as changing a tire.

“That is a game changer when it comes to uptime and efficiency for these fleets,” Burnette says. “That’s the number-one metric that the trucking industry relies on.”

The first completely autonomous trucks will start to roll out in the next couple of years, Burnette predicts. “We are at a point where we’re refining and validating the self-driving vehicle,” he says. “Soon we’ll be able to see all the safety and efficiency benefits we’ve been talking about and currently demonstrate with a safety driver.”