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Autonomous Ridesharing Vehicles and the Environmental Rebound Effect

Project Leads

Associate Professor in the Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of Wisconsin, Madison




Project Description

Transportation technologies are evolving at an unprecedented rate. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) and autonomous rideshare vehicles (ARVs) are slated to fundamentally change mobility and travel behavior with profound and complex implications for the environment and climate change. AVs do not require a driver and therefore free up the attention of the occupants to do other tasks. This could have enormous ramifications for individual travel behavior and patterns.

This project will investigate how the advent of new transportation technologies will influence the consumption of transportation, and the corresponding environmental impacts. The researchers will move beyond how transportation mode choice would change with the advent of AVs and ARVs and will examine how the transportation patterns and distances themselves would change. They will research the rebound effects that could occur, both in terms of vehicle mile traveled (VMTs) and carbon emissions.

The research team will design and deploy a survey which will investigate how people think their transportation habits would change due to the advent of AVs and ARVs. The survey will look at how their behavior has changed due to the proliferation of vehicle sharing platforms, alternate sharing modes (i.e. bicycle and scooter sharing options), and the global pandemic. The Covid-19 global pandemic has fundamentally changed mobility and travel behavior. The pandemic has led to increases in remote work and concerns over using public transportation. This research will seek to understand the implications of the emerging AV and ARV technologies, and will account for major societal changes produced by the pandemic.

The survey will be deployed in Chicago, as it is an urban area with long commute times and many available transportation modes. The research will identify policy interventions and their potential to reduce the environmental impacts of the transportation behaviors.