Technological innovations in transportation create new economic opportunities. They also raise challenges for policymakers, who need to keep informed of the changes, their potential impacts, and the policy and legal implications.

TPEC researchers study the implications of changing transportation technology and recommend actions for policymakers. Their aim is to ensure that the full economic benefits from transportation innovation are realized—thus enhancing Minnesota's economic competitiveness.

Self-driving vehicles

One particular innovation—self-driving vehicles (SDVs)—is potentially transformative and disruptive. The widespread use of these vehicles could dramatically alter transportation infrastructure, land-use patterns, safety, jobs, accessibility, much more.

National conference, journal special issue

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Photo: Shutterstock

At a conference cosponsored by TPEC in 2014, state and national leaders explored the various legal, ethical, technical, and policy dimensions of self-driving vehicles. The conference—Automated Vehicles: The Legal and Policy Road Ahead—featured presentations and discussions of industry and design perspectives, civil liability and insurance, criminal liability, regional and city planning perspectives, and ethics, equity, and access.

Articles based on the conference were published in the spring 2015 issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science & Technology, a multidisciplinary journal edited by University of Minnesota faculty and law students.

Roundtables: technologies and transportation equity

A series of roundtable discussions hosted by TPEC in 2016 investigated the policy impacts of new transportation technologies. The roundtables specifically explored the impacts of the digital infrastructure and self-driving vehicles.

Discussion topics included opportunities and obstacles for improved mobility and access for people who cannot drive, possible impacts of self-driving vehicles on urban form, and broader impacts of the digital infrastructure on the physical infrastructure. Participants included U of M faculty and research staff, key members of state and local governments, and interested citizens.

Video: Policy and Planning Opportunities of Self-Driving Vehicles

The "future" of self-driving vehicles is quickly becoming reality. As these technologies make their way into the vehicles that get us from point A to point B, they are beginning to disrupt not only the way we think about transportation, but the way we relate to the built environment and organize the way we live. Frank Douma, director of the State and Local Policy Program at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs, discusses these issues in a video from Civios, an open source project hosted by the Humphrey School.

Watch the video: Policy and Planning Opportunities of Self-Driving Vehicles (5:41)

What’s next

TPEC researchers have convened a task force to examine the potential impacts of self-driving vehicles on a wide variety of people who are “transportation disadvantaged.” The task force will seek to identify strategies that ensure seniors, the disabled, and other disadvantaged communities fully enjoy the mobility offered by SDVs. It is made up of representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Metro Mobility, metro-area counties, non-profits, and organizations from Greater Minnesota.

Completed research