Where are Self-Driving Cars Taking Us?

Fehr & Peers DC partnered with the Union of Concerned Scientists to assess how autonomous vehicles (AVs) could impact low-income communities and communities of color in the Washington, D.C. area. We used the MWCOG regional travel demand model to quantify how transportation outcomes may differ in different jurisdictions and communities in the region under a variety of future AV scenarios:

Single Occupancy AVs with Limited Transit (Dystopia)
Single Occupancy AVs with Enhanced Transit
Shared AVs with Limited Transit
Shared AVs with Enhanced Transit (Utopia)
ITE Micromobility Facility Design Guide

Each scenario was evaluated through several performance measures, including job accessibility, trip duration, trip distance, mode share, and vehicle miles traveled. Performance measures were applied for the region as a whole, MWCOG-designated Equity Emphasis Areas and more affluent parts of the region (defined as areas not designated Equity Emphasis Areas).

Across the different performance measures, the scenarios that included ridesharing or enhanced transit scenarios were found to provide an equity benefit, either mitigating an existing gap in outcomes between demographic groups or reducing the extent to which that gap is expanded. Given the induced travel expected from all AV futures, electrification was identified as a key strategy for mitigating disparate exposure to pollutants experienced by low-income communities and communities of color.

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