Pilot project purgatory? Assessing automated vehicle pilot projects in U.S. cities

Devon McAslan, Farah Najar Arevalo, David A. King, Thaddeus Miller

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract

Pilot projects have emerged in cities globally as a way to experiment with the utilization of a suite of smart mobility and emerging transportation technologies. Automated vehicles (AVs) have become central tools for such projects as city governments and industry explore the use and impact of this emerging technology. This paper presents a large-scale assessment of AV pilot projects in U.S. cities to understand how pilot projects are being used to examine the risks and benefits of AVs, how cities integrate these potentially transformative technologies into conventional policy and planning, and how and what they are learning about this technology and its future opportunities and risks. Through interviews with planning practitioners and document analysis, we demonstrate that the approaches cities take for AVs differ significantly, and often lack coherent policy goals. Key findings from this research include: (1) a disconnect between the goals of the pilot projects and a city’s transportation goals; (2) cities generally lack a long-term vision for how AVs fit into future mobility systems and how they might help address transportation goals; (3) an overemphasis of non-transportation benefits of AV pilots projects; (4) AV pilot projects exhibit a lack of policy learning and iteration; and (5) cities are not leveraging pilot projects for public benefits. Overall, urban and transportation planners and decision makers show a clear interest to discover how AVs can be used to address transportation challenges in their communities, but our research shows that while AV pilot projects purport to do this, while having numerous outcomes, they have limited value for informing transportation policy and planning questions around AVs. We also find that AV pilot projects, as presently structured, may constrain planners’ ability to re-think transportation systems within the context of rapid technological change.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number325
JournalHumanities and Social Sciences Communications
Volume8
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - Dec 2021
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Business, Management and Accounting(all)
  • Arts and Humanities(all)
  • Social Sciences(all)
  • Psychology(all)
  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

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