Driverless vehicles are on the way. Seriously. And people are starting to consider how the driverless revolution will impact the economy.

My favorite financial blogger Mish Shedlock has a post today about how self-driving trucks will impact the truck driver profession. But it’s not just truck drivers who will be affected:

At $40,000 a year, the incentive to replace truck drivers with software is massive. And it will happen. Not only that, but insurance costs will drop. Most truck accidents are caused by user error: Driving too fast, driving while tired, driving intoxicated, etc. Robots don’t drink, don’t get tired, won’t drive unsafe to get to a destination faster, etc.
People keep emailing me about insurance. Many believe the cost of insurance will skyrocket. I believe accident rates will plunge, and insurance costs with it. So what happens to a lot of insurance salesmen? Claims investigators?
That hits close to home in the legal industry, as New York personal injury lawyer Eric Turkewitz discussed on his blog a while back.
Turkewitz envisions self-driving cars as a bad development for the personal injury bar. But I think it’s broader than that. googlecar
Mississippi’s post-litigation bubble taught us that if something is bad for the personal injury bar, then it’s also bad for the defense bar. Ten to fifteen years ago, many defense lawyers theorized that their practice would not be impacted by tort reform, etc. because “plaintiff lawyers will always file cases.”
It seems really naive now, but I can’t tell you how many defense lawyers back then thought that their practices would be unaffected. They even cheered on caps and changes to joinder and venue laws because it would level the playing field. Ironically, some of the most naive were the first to be pushed out the door of their defense firm. That’s not surprising when you think about it. Lawyers who don’t have their fingers on the pulse of the litigation climate are less valuable to firms than those that do.
And it wasn’t just litigators who were impacted. The litigation bust pushed many lawyers out of mass tort, consumer fraud and personal injury and into family law and criminal law. Lawyers in those fields were impacted with increased competition.
Some might theorize that the collapse of the car wreck practice area would only affect the big advertising firms and the lawyers working for the big auto insurance companies. History has taught us that’s wrong. The impact would be felt throughout the legal industry in a generally negative way.
This is just another example of how technological advances have a negative impact on current professions. That’s not new, of course. Just ask stagecoach drivers.
Industries and professions are always in a state of flux. The legal industry is becoming less immune to this fact.