In the past, the South by Southwest® (SXSW®) Conference held few sessions related to transportation. This year conference planners created the Intelligent Future event track that features a variety of experts on connected and automated vehicles (CV/AV). One of those experts is Johanna Zmud, senior research scientist at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute (TTI). Zmud is co-presenting at SXSW® with Gretchen McFarlan from C3 Group in a session titled Texas as a Self-Driving Car Case Study, which focuses on the impact of automated vehicles in Texas.
In discussions about the emergence of CV/AV travel, it’s the technology that tends to attract most of the attention, perhaps because implementing it presents significant implications for cities and states. TTI’s Transportation Policy Research Center (PRC) is researching how the market for such vehicles will develop in order to inform the decision makers shaping policies that best serve the public interest.
Zmud recently published a report, Consumer Acceptance and Travel Behavior Impacts of Automated Vehicles, part of the PRC’s Revolutionizing Our Roadways series that studies the relationship between advanced transportation technologies and policy-making. She says, “The arrival of self-driving vehicles could be truly transformative, but future acceptance and use are highly uncertain.”
Researchers interviewed Austin-area residents to determine how likely they might be to use an automated vehicle and their reasoning for doing so. Fifty percent of those interviewed indicated they’d be willing to use an automated vehicle, and 50 percent said they wouldn’t. Those who responded positively viewed AVs as safer than cars driven by people.
Zmud explains, “These types of studies begin to help forecast consumer demand, and that combined with technological development will determine the pace and scale of market development.” Car ownership could change—people might own more or fewer vehicles. Residential spatial patterns could change—more people might live farther from or closer to downtown. “However, it is challenging for early research to surface CV/AV effects on behavior because the general public is not yet familiar with the new opportunities or challenges self-driving vehicles may bring. Society will benefit from research that provides a window on how this new age of mobility is unfolding.”
The SXSW Intelligent Future track is filled with other transportation-related presentations from public- and private-sector experts, including Looking Forward to Rush Hour: Future of Transit, How Self-Driving Cars Will Remake Cities, and Robo-Cars and Selling the Post-Driving Experience.
To find more information on CV/AV research at TTI read the latest issue of Texas Transportation Researcher: Who’s Driving the Revolution?