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Publication Detail
Automated vehicles: exploring possible consequences of government (non)intervention for congestion and accessibility
Abstract
Academic research on automated vehicles (AVs) has to date been dominated by the fields of engineering and computer science. Questions of how this potentially transformative technology should be governed remain under-researched and tend to concentrate on governing the technology’s early development. We respond in this paper by exploring the possible longer-term effect of government (lack of) intervention. The paper tests the hypothesis that a “laissez-faire” governance approach is likely to produce less desirable outcomes in a scenario of mass uptake of AVs than would a well-planned set of government interventions. This is done using two prominent themes in transport policy – traffic flow and accessibility – in a scenario of high market penetration of Level-5 automated vehicles in capitalist market economies. The evidence used is drawn from a literature review and from the findings of a set of workshops with stakeholders. We suggest that a laissez-faire approach will lead to an increase in traffic volume as a result of a growing population of “drivers” and a probable increase in kilometres driven per passenger. At the same time, the hoped-for increases in network efficiency commonly claimed are not guaranteed to come about without appropriate government intervention. The likely consequence is an increase in congestion. And, with respect to accessibility, it is likely that the benefits of AVs will be enjoyed by wealthier individuals and that the wider impacts of AV use (including sprawl) may lead to a deterioration in accessibility for those who depend on walking, cycling or collective transport. We consider the range of possible government intervention in five categories: Planning/land-use; Regulation/policy; Infrastructure/technology; Service provision; and Economic instruments. For each category, we set out a series of interventions that might be used by governments (at city, region or state level) to manage congestion or protect accessibility in the AV scenario described. Many of these (e.g. road pricing) are already part of the policy mix but some (e.g. ban empty running of AVs) would be new. We find that all interventions applicable to the management of traffic flow would also be expected to contribute to the management of accessibility; we define a small number of additional interventions aimed at protecting the accessibility of priority groups. Our general finding is that the adoption of a package of these interventions could be expected to lead to better performance against generic traffic-flow and accessibility objectives than would a laissez-faire approach, though questions of extent of application remain. n our conclusions, we contrast laissez-faire with both anticipatory governance and “precautionary” governance and acknowledge the political difficulty associated with acting in the context of uncertainty. We point out that AVs do not represent the first emerging technology to offer both opportunities and risks and challenge governments at all levels to acknowledge the extent of their potential influence and, in particular, to examine methodically the options available to them and the potential consequences of pursuing them.
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Dept of Civil, Environ &Geomatic Eng
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