IATR President Matt Daus (second from left) joins in a panel discussion with US/EU delegates (from left to right): Dalia Leven, AECOM; Tim Papandreou, City Innovate; Alex Karner, The University of Texas at Austin; Alexandra Millonig, AIT Austrian Institute of Technology; and US Chair to the Committee, Professor Susan Shaheen, University of California, Berkeley.

E.U. – U.S. Transportation Research Symposium & Report

On June 26-27, 2018, a symposium on Socio-Economic Impacts of Automated and Connected Vehicles was held in Brussels, Belgium, hosted by the European Commission and in partnership with the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Transportation Research Board (TRB) of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (the Academies). This was the sixth annual symposium sponsored by the European Commission and the United States. It brought together high-level experts to share their views on the socio-economic impacts of connected and automated vehicles and shared mobility (CAVSM). In the spirit of fostering cross-cultural collaboration in research and deployment, participants discussed challenges and opportunities arising from the dissemination of CAVSM and innovative approaches to mitigate any negative socio-economic impacts.

To develop a focus for the symposium, a planning committee was jointly created by the European Commission and TRB; members of the committee provided expertise in innovative mobility systems and solutions, economics and welfare, safety and security, privacy and data protection, land use and transport planning, and equity issues. I was proud to be one of four members selected by the TRB and the US DOT to represent the US as a transportation technology expert, especially on the issues of transportation regulation, data access & privacy, and labor/employment law impacts. My colleague from U.C. Berkeley, Professor Susan Shaheen, co-chaired the symposium, representing the U.S. team, along with her counterpart from the EU, Professor Barbara Lenz, of the Transport Research Institute at the German Aerospace Center in Berlin.

I was very involved in every aspect of the deliberations surrounding the behavior and impacts of stakeholders. It is rare that research needs to be focused on stakeholders, as typical transportation research topics usually involve data analysis, modeling, policy-making and other quantitative, as opposed to qualitative aspects. However, the deployment of CAVs is critically reliant on the behavior of the numerous public and private stakeholders, the latter of which includes many industries and entities engaging in partnerships or joint ventures, cross-investment strategies, and personnel moves that highlight the incestuous relationships between technology companies, mobility providers and auto manufacturers.

To date, research has mostly focused on the technology aspects of CAVs, with little or no emphasis placed on whether citizens and passengers will accept this new technology, whether congestion will actually be mitigated to further sustainable transportation goals, and whether our most vulnerable citizens in underserved or low-income areas, or the disability community, will even have access to such services. That is why this project is and will be so important to guiding the research that should facilitate the successful deployment of CAVs.

Ultimately, these discussions resulted in the formulation of problem statements and identified research topics for EU-U.S. collaboration. The published report was released at a TRB workshop on Sunday, January 13, 2019 in Washington, D.C., where I reported on the stakeholder issues, engaged in panel discussions and organized breakout focus groups on the stakeholder topic. The final report summarizes the discussions held at the Brussels event, followed by EU-U.S. potential research topics on the socio-economic impacts of CAVs, and can be accessed at this link on the TRB website: http://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs/conf/cp56.pdf

This article will briefly summarize the findings of each topic area but will first delve slightly deeper into the stakeholder issue to provide a more in-depth example of how research issues and purposes were identified and will be tackled in the coming years.

UTRC Transportation Technology Chair Matt Daus presents findings of Automated Vehicle Research at the Transportation Research Board in Washington, DC.

Purpose and Scope of the Symposium & Report

In a time of great disruption and uncertainty in the transportation landscape, there is a need to understand the impacts of CAVs and create research programs to explore them. The symposium was designed to identify similarities and key differences between the United States and Europe and to develop potential research topics to address them. Ultimately, the Symposium was seeking to explore how CAVs may prove beneficial or not in achieving common societal, environmental, and economic goals, and to identify pathways that will alleviate unintended consequences.

Four topics – and the specific implications of CAVs have on each topic – were explored. They were: freight transport; places where people work, live, and play; people’s behavior; and stakeholders’ role and attitude. Four “transversal themes” were also identified so that each exploratory topic could be examined from the perspectives of economics and welfare, equity, data access and privacy, and safety and security.

 

Who Are the Stakeholders and What Do They Do?

CAVs are bound to influence a wide range of stakeholders who are expected to react and contribute to shaping policy and CAV regulatory frameworks. Stakeholders may include public and quasi-public entities, users and impacted non-users, automakers, private mobility companies, and technology companies. Some examples include: public and quasi-public entities (government transport agencies, airports and economic development/tourism boards); users or impacted people/entities (drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, interest groups and disabled populations); automakers (OEMs, car dealers, advertising industry); private mobility companies (Transportation Network Companies – TNCs, bike share, microtransit and professional for-hire vehicle and taxicab drivers); and technology & related companies (internet providers, big data/software or platform providers, insurance and telematics companies, or niche providers – like taximeter manufacturers).

Each category is likely to react according to their goals and interests, with public authorities devising regulations and adjusting the market accordingly. Much time was spent in playing out two scenarios – high regulation versus low regulation. In a “low regulation and high market force” scenario, regulators will choose to offer minimal intervention for the provision of mobility services. While this may result in innovative private services, these services may not meet the needs of all segments of society and could lead to an increase in safety hazards. A low regulation transport system would rely on private competing mobility services with privately owned AVs. Public transportation could be reduced, while CAV systems would feature a fancy assortment of traveler services.

Private mobility services are not likely to be the most equitable in a “low regulation” environment – as they may not be affordable or accessible for all. As a result, differentiated levels of service may become common. Service providers, meanwhile, will likely collect tremendous amounts of big data on the mobility of their customers, which could allow for systematic profiling practices. In this scenario, no anonymity or privacy would be guaranteed to travelers – while no open data access would be in place.

In a “high regulation” scenario, too many stringent regulations may stifle innovation, yet extensive regulations could be more conducive to the goals of increasing safety and improving mobility for all. In this scenario, the transportation system may rely mainly on public transport, which includes demand-responsive and CAV-based mass transit services. Significant changes in the workforce will most likely take place, albeit at a slower and more deliberate pace than with a low regulation scenario. This will result in a decrease in for-hire vehicle drivers and an increase in the personnel needed to develop and operate CAV-based public transport services. Although it may be easier under a high regulation scenario to ensure basic transport services to all people in all regions, the difference in mobility between the affluent and the rest of society is likely to remain significant. Where public CAVs are the main mode of transport, mobility data will be owned by public authorities, making it possible to ensure the privacy and anonymity of travel for at least some services, while user identification may be inevitable for others. Lastly, in the realm of safety, smaller traffic volumes (in terms of the number of vehicles), are likely to reduce crash exposure and therefore the associated crash risk for all users.

The general impressions or conclusions formulated during the symposium on the stakeholder issues are as follows: More commonalities exist between the US and EU on the issues of economics/workforce and safety/security issues than for equity and data access/privacy. The transportation ecosystem is expanding with CAVs, and the number of stakeholders is proliferating. Priorities involve understanding and addressing shifting concepts of ownership, control and/or responsibility among various stakeholders.

Just to highlight one issue where there is a clear difference of approach on the regulatory side with the treatment of stakeholders, below is a sample problem statement with suggested research topics in the realm of stakeholder data access and privacy.

Chair Daus leads a breakout session at TRB (left), with Monica Fainshtein, the IATR’s new Membership Director.

Problem Statement: Data Collection/Protection Methods & Tools

There is a need to review and further develop data protection methods, tools and guidance enabling the public sector to identify data requirements and datasets for CAV-based transport operations, to assess data quality and the ethics of third-party data collection/analysis.

Research Purposes/Topics: Study public versus private data sharing protection/access best practices; Assess data breach and cybersecurity attack risks and develop a code of conduct assigning rights and responsibilities among various stakeholders; and explore and compare regulatory strategies between the US (Federal Trade Commission and State Attorney General enforcement efforts) and the EU, where the GDPR – General Data Protection Regulations – are being implemented and would apply to a CAV paradigm.

 

Freight – Impacts on People

This topic focused on both long-haul goods transportation and urban/regional delivery. Long-haul and urban delivery present fundamentally different challenges when designing a “world of road automation.”  With a low regulation scenario, a quick adoption of automation and the necessary upgrading of road infrastructure would occur, with most logistic providers relying on automated truck fleets and supply chains, while the workforce (e.g., truck drivers), would require a large investment from the state and may negatively affect the competitiveness of small and independent trucking and distribution companies. More on-road shipments are likely to increase noise and air pollution, while the quality of life in urban areas is likely to be negatively affected by the dispersal of off-peak deliveries – calling into question issues of equity. In a “high regulation” scenario, new business models for dual use (freight & passenger transport combined) may emerge, and the overall positive effects on safety and the environment can generate high public acceptance. Also, in this regulation-driven scenario, specific laws could be required to allow for digital inspections and freight transported along an automated supply chain.

 

Places Where People Live, Work, and Play

This topic addressed potential land use changes that are likely to arise under different transportation automation futures. In the scenario with high market forces, CAVs completely replace traditional vehicles, with a correlating decrease in the attractiveness of non-motorized modes. With the proliferation of CAVs, there would be a reduction in allocation of space for parking – leading to an increased concentration of economic activity. Retail service could become more concentrated, which could prompt the emergence of service hubs (leading to the disappearance of smaller service locations).

In a high regulation scenario, overall traffic volumes are reduced and non-motorized modes become more attractive. Tele-commuting would become widespread, while smaller and shared CAVs may prevail in the passenger sector, while most CAVs are largely used for the movement of goods. Impacting the workforce, the reduction in commuting distances and times is expected to generate an overall increase in population health; with the downside being continued segregation – with well-off communities where more telecommuters reside maintaining an advantage over areas populated by commuters with less transportation options.

 

Impact of Automation on Travel Behavior

This topic addressed the impacts on travel behavior as a result of the automation of the transport of goods and people. Varying CAV market penetration levels and policy contexts are likely to deeply affect public acceptance and mobility choices. In the low regulation scenario, CAV services cater to a wide assortment of mobility needs, with different vehicle sizes and models. CAV services may become very popular – due to ease of use and low costs – while demand for traditional transportation modes dramatically decreases (leading to cuts in public transportation and reduction of non-motorized modes).

Under this scenario, just about everyone is using CAVs, and mobility outside the urban core is almost entirely serviced by them. However, a large-scale CAV based transportation system would likely have a negative impact on socio-economic disparities, with “privileged” social groups receiving higher priority on their trips, with others accepting longer commute distances and times. This scenario may also cause a reduction in physical exercise and social interaction, having repercussions on people’s health and well-being. In the “high regulation” scenario, ambitious climate and environmental goals may be developed, which would ultimately mean a decrease in traffic volumes and the rise of tele-commuting. Professions in the transportation sector would be deeply affected by this scenario, as the automotive industry would shift its focus from private transportation to shared vehicles for special services, and to smaller vehicles for goods movement.

http://www.trb.org/Publications/Blurbs/178576.aspx

Next Steps… What to Do With This Report?

This symposium brought together some of the best transportation minds on both continents, and involved both high-level visioning, as well as granular command of the potential impacts. While it is difficult at this time to envision the future of automation beyond the hype we read about in the mainstream media, this exercise not only highlighted the social problems and benefits of these new technologies, but the overriding issue of governance.

The private sector is sitting around developing their technology and partnerships but is asking what the government wants it to do. Meanwhile, the government has no plan other than to remove the obstacles for testing and to be supportive by removing regulations that may be perceived to stand in the way. Basically, the government is waiting for the private sector and there is not enough communication going on. One is pointing the finger at the other, and in either a low regulation or high regulation environment, right now no decision is being made on which scenario to even deploy. It may very well be that the technology will be more than ready for deployment a very long time before the public or government may be.

The bottom line is that this report should be used to quickly research these issues so an implementation plan can be put together by the private sector and the government – together. The number of government agencies involved is proliferating and each country should put one overriding agency in charge. Also, once we have a government agency in charge, there needs to be clear and decisive leadership on the government side, and a practical dialogue to set forth best practices or international guidelines for deployment long-term – even if various conflicting models or regulatory paradigms are tested. For example, will the streets of urban centers be closed only to CAVs, and who will own and run the CAVs – the government (as part of an extended mass transit system), mobility management companies that privatize the function, or a mix of shared vehicles owned by the automakers and rented to consumers?

The various scenarios are mindboggling, but a sandbox needs to be built quickly by the government, and all the private sector stakeholders need to jump in and engage in projects that are studied – not on the three- to five-year timeframe that most research takes but streamlined and expedited pragmatic studies to keep pace with the speed of innovation. The bold ideas and impacts are in the report, so now let’s put it to work immediately to advance CAV technology wisely for the benefit of all members of society!

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Article by Matthew W. Daus, Esq.
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