Research

Reports

Pumping the Brakes on Robot Cars (Sustainability, 2019)

Kelley, S.B., B.W. Lane and J.M. DeCicco. 2019. Pumping the brakes on robot cars: Current urban traveler willingness to consider driverless vehicles. Sustainability 11.18 (September): 5042. https://doi.org/10.3390/su11185042

ABSTRACT

A growing literature suggests that widespread travel conducted through driverless connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) accessed as a service, in contrast to those personally owned, could have significant impacts on the sustainability of urban transportation. However, it is unclear how the general public currently considers willingness to travel in driverless vehicles, and if they would be more comfortable doing so in one personally owned or one accessed as a service.

To address such questions, we collected travel survey data by intercepting respondents on discretionary or social trips to four popular destinations in a medium-size U.S. city in the spring of 2017. After collecting data on how the respondent reached the survey site and the trip’s origin and destination, survey administrators then asked if respondents would have been willing to make their current trip in either a personally-owned driverless vehicle or through a driverless vehicle service.

Over one-third of respondents expressed willingness to use both forms, while 31% were unwilling to use either. For those that considered only one, slightly more favored the personally-owned model. Consideration of an existing mobility service was consistently a positive and significant predictor of those that expressed willingness to travel in a driverless vehicle, while traveling downtown negatively and significantly influenced consideration of at least one form of driverless vehicle.

These findings highlight the diverse public views about the prospect of integration of CAVs in transportation systems and raise questions about the assumption that travelers to central city locations would be early adopters of automated vehicle mobility services.