Strategies to Reduce AV Impacts

Optimizing our Autonomous Future

Our modeling of impacts of AVs under trend-line and market forces conditions indicates that, in ten regions across the US, AVs will increase vehicle miles travelled (VMT) by about 30% and reduce transit ridership by almost the same percentage. To address environmental and social concerns associated with these prospective outcomes, our FP Think initiative extended the modeling to consider the ability of potential regulatory, pricing, and technology countermeasures to reduce these impacts.

We modeled three representative regions to determine whether potential impacts can be substantially mitigated if public and private sector interests quickly implement measures allowing the improved mobility likely offered by AVs, but without the unintended adverse consequences.

Prominent measures we tested include:

Pricing

Fees and user charges on low occupancy vehicle travel in the form of vehicle-mile charges and congestion pricing.

Shared-Ride Incentives

Pricing and added efficiencies and right-sized vehicles for pooled door-to-door travel, crowd-sourced microtransit, enhanced “mobility-as-a-service” options.

Goods Movement

Autonomous goods movement, local manufacture and 3D printing, optimized deliveries on right-sized vehicles.

Transit Enhancements

Autonomous transit vehicles to redeploy services in a more demand-responsive fashion to reduce passengers’ service access and wait times, speed up origin-to-destination travel times, and reduce fares.

New Technology Solutions

Drone deliveries and vertical-takeoff-landing (VTOL) transport, virtual reality as a substitute for travel, micro-mobility technology including e-bikes and scooters, and delivery bots.

Many of these measures will require cooperative public and private efforts, setting in place supportive policies, regulations, financial incentives and infrastructure and making significant private investment to make technology and operational advances possible.

The modeling results find that, without these countermeasures, the regional vehicle miles and trips in the three regions tested would increase by an average of between 20 and 25% and transit trips would decrease by about 25% when compared to future conditions with no AVs being available. However, with the full array of optimal strategies, the vehicle miles would decrease by 10 to 15%, trips would decrease by up to 5%, and transit trips would increase by an average 5 to 10% compared with a no-AV future.

Key Takeaway

Many of these countermeasures represent ambitious undertakings in terms of political will, cost and technology and call for early action in order to affect the trajectory of AV impacts, but the benefits appear to be significant in terms of counteracting potentially significant adverse impacts and turning them into favorable outcomes for mobility and environmental quality.

For the past five years, Fehr & Peers’ FP Think group has been tackling some of the biggest and most challenging questions about how technology is disrupting the transportation industry. If you’d like to discuss more, we would love to talk.