TTI Senior Research Scientist Johanna Zmud helped author the recently published policy brief “Defining the Role of Automated Transportation Infrastructure in Shaping Sociotechnical Systems” in the Think20 (T20) Task Force publication Infrastructure Investment and Financing. T20 is an engagement group comprised of regional and international think tanks serving to research and generate policy proposals on current financial and economic issues. The group exists as part of an international forum called Group of Twenty (G20) — the central forum for international cooperation on issues related to finance and economics.
There is a need for new methods of transportation to address the global challenge of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. The desire for cleaner air is one factor driving the development of automated vehicles and may usher in new kinds of mobility practices that have long-lasting impacts on transport, connectivity, urban development and energy. Understanding how these new mobility practices may impact society will help governments and policymakers make informed decisions on future infrastructure investments.
“The societal effects of robomobility are quite complex,” said Zmud. “Leaders around the world should take robomobility seriously to better understand how a rise in autonomous vehicles can impact everyday factors such as climate change and traffic congestion.”
The deployment of robomobility services (i.e., driverless vehicles) requires a substantial investment in three main areas of mobility infrastructure: physical, digital and energy. However, recent research indicates no clear evidence of adequate focus on these types of infrastructures or their integration with existing transportation systems from both the public and private sectors.
T20 researchers also identified a lack of data, experience, understanding and standards within the G20 regarding how infrastructure choices influence society. For example, there is no consensus on whether traffic congestion will increase or decrease following the introduction of new robomobility technologies. There is also a lack of experience in the management of infrastructure required for driverless vehicles, such as lane allocation on highways and in urban areas.
Researchers from T20 suggest an international platform be created to share best practices on infrastructure investment and financing. The authors believe that bringing together the G20 — which includes 19 countries and the entire European Union — will help facilitate the design of innovative frameworks and ideas. The platform would also produce a shared set of guidelines and principles for policymakers that address the design, finance and management of infrastructure and associated mobility services.
“The issues we raised in this policy brief are worth continued debate and discussion,” said Zmud. “We’re hopeful our recommendation will help facilitate new discussions on complex infrastructure programs that will go a long way in creating a pathway to a carbon-neutral society.”
To learn more, please read the full policy brief online.