Aside from being very annoying, traffic congestion is a major brake on the economy. When people are stuck in jams, they’re not working, they’re not delivering goods, they’re not consuming goods, and they’re very stressed out. From an economic (and personal) point of view, none of these things is good.
But looked at in another way, congestion represents a major opportunity. If we could somehow cut the number of cars on the road, or ensure those cars moved more efficiently, we could add billions to the GDP, and perhaps create jobs at the same time. How? According to a new working paper, by employing driverless cars in large numbers, and by introducing more tolls to pay for roads.
A new paper published by the Mercatus Center at George Mason University looks back on traffic data from California in 2010 and estimates that had the state managed to cut congestion by 50%, it would have created 350,000 jobs, added $35 billion to the economy, and increased wages by $14 billion. Researches suggest that driverless cars will have that desired effect. Although many autonomous vehicles are targeted to go on sale around 2020, even then we may be years from mass adoption. Still, authors of the report remain patient and optimistic about the positive effect autonomous vehicles will have on the GDP and even on job creation.