The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF) has awarded the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI) a grant to evaluate safety and health concerns related to implementing connected and automated vehicle (CAV) technologies. CAVs hold the promise to revolutionize our transportation system through improved mobility and safety while also reducing congestion and crash-related deaths and injuries. However the potential health benefits (and consequences) of adopting CAVs have yet to be studied in depth.
The RWJF grant of $250,000 is part of a larger $2.4 million initiative exploring the interrelationships among technology, infrastructure and health. The project also includes graduate student funding from TTI’s Safety through Disruption University Transportation Center.
RWJF is the largest philanthropy in the United States dedicated solely to health. The Foundation is working alongside others to build a national Culture of Health that provides everyone in America a fair and just opportunity for health and well-being.
“There is great uncertainty associated with the health and equity implications of CAVs,” says TTI Associate Transportation Researcher and Principal Investigator Bahar Dadashova. “We’ve put together an interdisciplinary team to quantify the health impacts of CAVs along two key pathways: highway safety and traffic-related air pollution.”
The project will provide planners and policymakers with the resources they need to anticipate adoption patterns of CAVs. For example, they could use TTI’s research results to proactively mitigate transportation and health issues, such as crashes or poor air quality in low-income communities with slower CAV adoption rates.
“Health is our most important asset, and so we must better understand and effectively address environmental and social determinants of health,” says TTI Associate Research Scientist Haneen Khreis. “We need more research on how introducing CAVs will affect public health and health equity.”
Researchers will conduct a literature review, collect and analyze data, develop a data visualization tool, and ultimately provide recommendations regarding the impact of new technologies on public health. They’ll also collaborate with the City of Dallas and the North Central Texas Council of Governments to implement the project’s deliverables—the data visualization tool and recommendations—toward city planning and policy in the Dallas-Fort Worth metropolitan area.
“We are living in a time of unprecedented and increasingly rapid technological development, where technologies are designed, developed and implemented without full consideration for their influence on human life, health and equity,” explains Paul Tarini, RWJF senior program officer. “This project at TTI will help cities develop a better understanding of how CAVs will impact the health of their residents.”