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Today’s policymakers have an opportunity to implement plans that will guide the efficient usage of AVs and rider choices that may affect us for generations. …

Ironically, the efficiency of AVs has long been touted as a solution to traffic, but new research is beginning to suggest that AVs will, in fact, generate more of it. …

By eliminating most of the hassles of driving, such as parking and lost productivity time, AVs will induce not only more trips, but longer ones. Additionally, AVs waiting to pick up new riders will add “deadheading” miles. For traffic, the only thing worse than a single-occupant vehicle is a zero-occupant vehicle. Placed all together, this suggests they will almost certainly increase vehicle-miles traveled, energy use, and emissions. These impacts might be locked in by further sprawl and other shifts toward less efficient land-use patterns. …

To avoid the worst of these traffic scenarios, policy needs to be deployed with an eye towards minimizing the added miles and the demand for situations involving zero-occupant vehicles. …

… policies should always seek to encourage AVs that move more people in fewer vehicles. While the driverless technologies make point-to-point drop-offs possible, the realities of cities and highways means that they simply cannot accommodate one AV per person. …

The deployment and pricing models offered by automotive and tech companies should be structured to make shared AVs, not personal AVs, the model of choice. …

… policymakers should seek to create pricing policies in anticipation of the traffic-inducing effects of personal AVs. The program might be created in escalating prices, as to disincentivize the least efficient choices. A VMT fee would discourage longer trips in general, while a higher single-occupant fee would encourage AV riders to share rides. Lastly, a zero-occupant fee, addressing the miles added by AVs circling between pick-ups or headed home to park, would warrant the highest fee. …

The national dialogue around AV policy is a unique chance to rethink how we prioritize our transportation systems and the incentives within it. A century ago, when the internal combustion engine automobile began to proliferate, cities missed this opportunity to guide how they affected communities.

 

Full story from Mobility Lab here.