Urbanism Next
University of OregonUniversity of Oregon


The introduction of new technologies has the potential to impact local, state, and national economies in significant ways.

The introduction of new technologies has the potential to impact local, state, and national economies in significant ways.

Technologies including transportation network companies (TNCs), e-commerce, and autonomous vehicles (AVs) have the potential to transform large sectors of the economy—and in many cases they already are. Some brick-and-mortar retailers, including large chains and mass merchandisers, have been losing market share to e-commerce, and the ascendence of TNCs such as Lyft and Uber has drawn riders away from taxis and other for-hire transportation services. The rise of the sharing economy has also created competition for a variety of existing business models, from hotels to rental cars. On the flip side, these technologies have expanded the “gig” economy, increasing the number of flexible, low-barrier jobs that exist. Additional changes, such as AVs, could bring significant disruptions to real estate, freight, goods delivery, and infrastructure. Almost every part of the economy will likely be affected by these technologies, either directly or indirectly.


Job Market Changes

  • Retail Jobs: E-commerce directly competes with and takes market share away from conventional retail. As a result, some retail areas are experiencing job losses including clothing and department stores (CITE). However, job losses in the retail sector (with physical storefronts) could be mitigated by shifts in business models. For example, Target and Walmart have increased “buy online, pick-up in store” services which require workers to fill orders in stores and drop the orders off in customers’ cars.
  • Warehousing Jobs: As the share of goods bought online increases, the number of jobs in warehousing and logistics will also have to increase in order to meet customer demand. The number of warehousing jobs continues to rise and was one of the sectors the quickest to bounce back after losses caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. While gains in warehousing jobs may replace some losses in retail, there is a geographic mismatch as these jobs are located in different parts of a region (if they are in the same region at all).

The Gig Economy

New ways of conducting business and travelling are increasing the number of opportunities for “gig work.” For example, there is evidence to suggest that TNCs are pulling riders away from taxi and shuttle services, contributing to some job losses. TNCs (and other for-hire contract jobs) have also provided a new stream of gig economy jobs which have low barriers to entry. However, in many jurisdictions, gig economy workers are left without a safety net because they are considered independent contractors and are not entitled to workers’ compensation, health care benefits, sick pay, and do not typically qualify for unemployment benefits. The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted the importance of extending worker protections to gig-workers. Uber, Lyft, and other companies who “hire” workers for gig work have fought state efforts to distinguish gig workers as employees, while many workers’ rights advocates have supported state-level reclassification of workers.


Researchers estimate that between 1.3 and 2.3 million jobs in the United States could be directly eliminated by AVs by 2048, depending on the adoption scenario. The automation of public transit offerings, including buses and trains, could further contribute to job losses. Additionally, driverless technology may further expand food delivery services and make delivery operations more efficient, which could also impact the restaurant industry.

Land Value Shifts

The economic impacts of new technologies on land value hinges on the new uses of land. The tax base may grow or shrink depending on the redevelopment of land, and new uses of land will also affect the types of employment that occur on that land. If vast swaths become available for redevelopment, property values could shift, and the forces that drive property values could shift as transportation access changes.

Key questions

  • What are the jobs of the future?
  • What types of workforce development initiatives should cities undertake in order to proactively prepare for changes to labor forces brought about by new technological developments?
  • How can government policy support living-wage jobs and small business development?

What to do

Interested in doing something practical with this information? The Nexus has two “What to Do” categories, Governance and Design, with suggestions of where to start, as well as examples of what’s been tried before.

  • Pages within the Governance category deal with policy, planning, regulation, and everything else a government agency of any size might need to consider.
  • Pages within the Design category, meanwhile, focus on the nuts and bolts side of things, from how streets should be designed to how new opportunities for infill can shape future developments.

Click the link below to get started.

More about what to do »


Policies, pilots, and approaches

Report – Academic
Benjamin Y. Clark
Urbanism Next

The goal of this white paper is to consider the impact of AVs on municipal budgets. AVs create a “potential rat’s nest of a budgeting challenge.” This paper seeks to begin the process of untangling that rat’s nest, and provide the foundation for future phases of the project that will consider potential additional revenue sources to fund the infrastructure changes that may come from the integration of AVs as well as land use planning implications.

Suggested reports

Communication tools

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