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Autonomous Vehicles - Coming to a Driveway Near You?

Professors Jaime Kang and Mark Karwan have recently been awarded a 3-year National Science Foundation grant to define a framework to model and evaluate potential household-level use of Autonomous Vehicles (AVs).

This research will help in understanding potential issues and negative external effects as well as to provide strategies to mitigate these effects. 

An adoption of AVs will significantly change the current picture of transportation systems in all aspects of operations, control, traffic, demand, infrastructure, safety, vehicle ownership, etc. It is crucial to forecast usage of AVs in order to identify and plan for potential issues and external effects, and to guide smooth, efficient and economic transition. This research project will provide a framework to understand potential issues and external effects as well as provide strategies to mitigate these effects. For example, challenges will emerge from the operation of AVs as travelers' time values may be significantly modified. An AV may operate for longer times and more frequent trips as the driver's presence is not required. Or, the 'hands-free' travelers may also make other productive use of the time while traveling, thus becoming more tolerant of longer travel times and distances. In addition, it can draw insights to vehicle ownership structure which is expected to change drastically due to the fact that no household member is needed to be tied to the vehicle movements. In addition the research will develop a framework of infrastructure planning to reduce the impact of negative external effects of AVs. The focus is parking infrastructure planning as driverless "pickup" and "drop-off" operations are expected to generate more trips and subsequently increased negative external effects. 

Through these contributions, this research can help reduce the social cost of AV adoption. More broadly, this work will help in creating a more sustainable, economic, and efficient transportation and infrastructure system, and thereby creating help in creating a livable community. This includes providing better mobility and accessibility to disabled and elderly populations and reducing incidents of driving under the influence and accidents caused by medical conditions.