Autonomous vehicles (AV) are poised to induce disruptive changes, with significant implications for the economy, the environment, and society. This article reviews prior research on AVs and society, and articulates future needs. Research to assess future societal change induced by AVs has grown dramatically in recent years. The critical challenge in assessing the societal implications of AVs is forecasting how consumers and businesses will use them. Researchers are predicting the future use of AVs by consumers through stated preference surveys, finding analogs in current behaviors, utility optimization models, and/or staging empirical “AV-equivalent” experiments. While progress is being made, it is important to recognize that potential behavioral change induced by AVs is massive in scope and that forecasts are difficult to validate. For example, AVs could result in many consumers abandoning private vehicles for ride-share services, vastly increased travel by minors, the elderly and other groups unable to drive, and/or increased recreation and commute miles driven due to increased utility of in-vehicle time. We argue that significantly increased efforts are needed from the AVs and society research community to ensure 1) the important behavioral changes are analyzed and 2) models are explicitly evaluated to characterize and reduce uncertainty.
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Williams, E.; Das, V.; Fisher, A. Assessing the Sustainability Implications of Autonomous Vehicles: Recommendations for Research Community Practice. Sustainability 2020, 12, 1902. https://doi.org/10.3390/su12051902
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