Connected and automated vehicles

Connected and Automated Vehicles: Opportunity for Equity, Accessibility, and Safety

Google Streetview car
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In recent work, TPEC researchers focused on communities in the East Metro of the Twin Cities, particularly the east side, downtown, and Frogtown areas of Saint Paul. The research team used a combination of interviews and roundtable discussions to gather a range of stakeholders’ perspectives on transportation challenges and CAV technologies.

The researchers concluded that CAVs alone cannot solve systemic inequities, but planners and policymakers can make decisions that avoid the same disparities of past planning decisions. A notable takeaway, they say, is that policy needs to take a stronger role in guiding private development to address equity issues as CAV technology develops.

The East Metro research builds on earlier TPEC efforts that gathered input from local officials, stakeholders, and community members in Grand Rapids, St. Cloud, Mankato, and Fergus Falls.

Current CAV work by the TPEC team includes partnering on demonstration projects and pilot deployments with White Bear Lake, Grand Rapids, and the University of Minnesota CAV Ecosystem.

Task force report, community outreach

TPEC researchers formed a self-driving vehicle (SDV) task force in the spring of 2017 to identify how various SDV deployment strategies could improve mobility and access for transportation-dependent Minnesotans: seniors, people with disabilities, and others who are not able to drive themselves.

The task force was made up of representatives from the Minnesota Department of Transportation, Metro Mobility, local governments, nonprofits, and organizations from the Twin Cities and Greater Minnesota. At the close of its work, the task force constructed a Matrix of Users to cross-compare geography, barriers to participation, and the potential forms of self-driving transportation that may be implemented in Minnesota. The matrix separated Minnesota’s population into four geography ranges: central city, suburban, small city, and rural locales. Read the Self-Driving Vehicles Task Force Report and Matrix of Users (2017).

As follow-up to the task force, TPEC initiated stakeholder meetings across the state. In Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the researchers held two meetings with representatives from foundations and public agencies, people with disabilities, and others. The team also engaged the Region 9 Board of Directors and other local groups in Mankato and met with Saint Cloud’s area planning organization.

Building on this work, a newer project sought to uncover the needs of transportation-disadvantaged communities in the Twin Cities East Metro area. Researchers conducted interviews with human service providers and transportation practitioners to gain an understanding of transportation challenges and opportunities, as well as potential CAV implications. They also hosted a virtual roundtable with transportation program staff from a variety of organizations to discuss the potential implications of CAVs in urban contexts, with an emphasis on equity. Together, the interviews and roundtable produced a number of key findings. Learn more in a TPEC research brief: Connected and Automated Vehicles: Opportunity for Equity, Accessibility, and Safety (2020).

National conference, journal special issue

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.

Completed research