Driving Workforce Development in the Age of Autonomy

At May Mobility, we believe in an autonomous future — one that offers safe, clean, and accessible transportation in cities around the world. The transportation workers who will keep autonomous vehicles operating each and every day are a key component of that future. According to the Michigan Mobility Institute (MMI), self-driving and electric cars will help create more than 100,000 mobility industry jobs in the U.S. in the next decade. These jobs will include both operational and technical roles that require training, retraining or upskill training from the roles many employees hold today. May is not only committed to providing that training, but is already taking steps to ensure that today’s workforce has the skills needed for the transportation landscape for the next decade and beyond.

Helping Move the Industry Forward

May Mobility is not at it alone. An autonomous future requires stakeholders from the private and public sectors to come together with a similar vision and mission to prepare today’s workforce for an autonomous future. 

The Michigan Mobility Institute (MMI), the first initiative of the Detroit Mobility Lab that works to accelerate mobility workforce development, upskilling programs, and post-secondary degrees by bringing industry, labor and education partners together, is one such organization. As an employer partner, May collaborates with MMI to create the strategy and tools that will be necessary to prepare talent for careers in mobility.  

Additionally, May joined the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity (PTIO), a coalition of leading companies and associations with a shared interest in advancing autonomous vehicles and other transportation innovation and supporting the American workforce. The coalition studies autonomous vehicles (AVs) in the workforce to ensure that deployment of the technology will improve quality of life and economic opportunity for all Americans.

Both MMI and PTIO align well with one of May’s core missions: ensuring there is a real-world benefit for everything we create. 

“We want to create a future where everyone benefits from autonomous mobility solutions,” said Tara Lanigan, Head of Policy and Advocacy for May. “We are committed to supporting, developing and implementing programs that help prepare and train the workforce of future mobility.”  

A May Mobility Autonomous Vehicle Operator (AVO) prepares the vehicle to perform service for the day in Arlington, TX. Photo by Anthony La Penna.

Learning with Our Partners

In addition to playing an active role in industry organizations, May works closely with industry partners such as transit agency IndyGo. As part of the Together in Motion AV project, May Mobility and IndyGo are sharing learnings and collaborating on the future of mobility in Indianapolis. 

During the downtown Indianapolis portion of the TiM pilot, IndyGo and May Mobility set out to connect regularly for two primary reasons: for IndyGo to gain insight on AV operations in its own city, and for May Mobility to better understand how transit agencies envision the future of AVs tying into their own operations. 

“The benefits to public transport appear limitless,” said Brooke Thomas, Director of Strategic Planning for IndyGo. Adding, “further advancements in automated vehicle technologies for public transport is everything from maintaining and enhancing the safety of our transit operations, increasing the efficiency or productivity of our transit network, or both, to enhancing the customer experience.”

“One of the things that makes May Mobility unique is that we design autonomous solutions to complement existing transit options and not replace them,” said Lanigan. “This mindset extends to workforce development as we learn what training might be required for future mobility.” 

May and IndyGo outlined learning goals they have for each other. IndyGo was particularly interested in workforce development as they work to define their team’s jobs of the future. 

In August, May Mobility hosted IndyGo for a half-day event designed to help IndyGo identify the roles that are likely to exist as transportation becomes more autonomous. The May team provided an overview of our technology, services and internal operations, and the IndyGo team participated in job shadowing May employees.  

Representatives from IndyGo and May Mobility at a workforce development session in Indianapolis in August of 2021.

In September, the two organizations reflected during a virtual session on the learnings from the previous job shadowing session and further discussed the future of workforce development. The conversation revealed many operational similarities between the companies and provided good insights for what an autonomous workforce might look like. 

“May hopes to show our partners and educators the importance of building AV-career pathways from their classrooms,” said Shana Downs, Director of Sales and Channel Management at May Mobility. “The skills required to work in AV overlap with many existing areas of study, including technicians, hospitality, digital media and network security. 

The Jobs of the Future

As mobility and transit jobs evolve from inside the vehicle to outside, there will be an increased need for both technical and operational staff. Vehicle operators will have opportunities to transition to a variety of different roles, including repair and maintenance technicians, route logistics managers, data analysts and fleet managers — all responsible for managing the fleet and ensuring the safety of the vehicles and riders. Additional customer service and team management roles will emerge, specifically as companies work to understand how riders are using services and how routes can be improved. 

A significant number of technical roles will be necessary in the mobility future as well. Autonomous vehicles require a great deal of software and equipment upgrades, calibration and replacement. AVs will need to be managed and monitored remotely as well. 

“We feel that AVs could create a lot of new work activities, and May wants to work with cities, transit agencies and other partners to understand what those roles and career paths could be,” said Downs.

Regardless of what the future of autonomous mobility will hold, May Mobility is working hard to ensure the workforce is trained and prepared to keep things moving, creating more opportunity today even as the future of mobility evolves before our eyes.