Less than six months ago, 150 representatives from various organizations — including the California Governor’s Office; Austin, Texas; several University of California campuses; Google X; Uber and Lyft, among many others — gathered in Sacramento, Calif., to discuss the three revolutions taking place in transportation: sharing, electrification and automation.
The meeting, hosted by the UC Davis Institute of Transportation Studies (ITS) through its 3 Revolutions Policy Initiative, explored the key policies and strategies surrounding potential synergies among electrification, automation and vehicle sharing, and how best to guide those policies to serve the public interest.
Following the conference, the group conducted an informal survey that garnered 40 responses from policymakers, researchers and representatives from interest groups — most of whom agreed that fully driverless vehicles will make up more than 20 percent of cars on the road in less than 25 years. Perhaps most telling was the fact that the traditional auto manufacturers are not expected to spearhead this change; most agree it will be tech and transportation networking companies like Google, Uber andTesla.
“The three revolutions … have the potential to stimulate sweeping changes in passenger travel, overcome the resistance of incumbent industries, and provide a faster, scalable and more profitable path toward societal goals,” said UC Davis ITS Director Daniel Sperling in a framing document. “Unmanaged, some of these same innovations could exacerbate environmental quality, equity, and livability. ”
3 Revolutions Dream
3 Revolutions Nightmare
|If policymakers and businesses effectively manage the transition to maximize cost savings and environmental benefits, these types of benefits may occur:||If government is unprepared for the revolutions and allows companies to rush gasoline-powered autonomous cars to market, then the following may occur:|
|Inexpensive on-demand robot cars and shared electric bicycles become widely available.||Only wealthiest people buy autonomous cars, enjoying their enhanced freedom, flexibility and productivity.|
|Ridesharing costs plunge as a result of matching of passengers and car size.||Conventional car owners experience worsening congestion as they compete with more intensively used, and often empty, autonomous cars waiting for their owners.|
|More productive multi-tasking while traveling and fewer wasted hours spent ferrying kids around or running errands.||Those without drivers' licenses, autonomous cars or smartphones continue to be marginalized as the divide widens between mobility haves and have-nots.|
|Less searching for parking and less space devoted to parking at homes, along curbs, and at parking lots and garages.||More urban sprawl as people opt for long commutes.|
|Better access to health care, retail services, education and work for the mobility-disadvantaged.||Air pollutant and greenhouse gas emissions rise as vehicle usage increases.|
The 3 Revolutions serves as a convening group for a network of nearly 300 shareholders to identify trends and potential areas for improvement to harness the benefits of shared, autonomous and electric vehicles. The group also seeks to enhance public discourse on the three revolutions, and to connect researchers with policymakers.
In clarifying their positions and recommendations for regulations, the group released a set of policy briefs, described below, which were guest-authored by leading transportation policy experts.
“The authors of the policy briefs really start to ask some of the key questions: What do we see in terms of climate benefits associated with shared, electric, and eventually driverless vehicles? How will public transit and governments need to adapt in response to these three Revolutions? ” said ITS spokesperson Mollie D’Agostino in describing the briefs.
Another theme that emerged from the papers was the need for greater communication and coordination among industry, government and academia in order to avoid unintended negative consequences that could accompany the three revolutions.
While there is still time before 100 percent autonomous vehicle deployment on city streets, the group urges that the time for preparation is now — and planning for how people will move through multiple modes of transportation relies on an abundance of data.
Connected vehicles provide information about roadway conditions, surface congestion and vehicle accidents. Ridesharing and its ability to provide mobility to underserved populations can be used to understand how people are moving around. Despite an abundance of this data, there remains a challenge in accessing this information from transportation networking companies.
“We’re lucky because these revolutions speak toward the ability to have better and richer data sources,” said D’Agostino. “To be able to really analyze that data will require partnerships, and that is where we are.”
The group will hold a second meeting in April, this time open to the public. Members will discuss their latest analysis related to the convergence of these three transportation revolutions and what it means for mobility, sustainable communities, and the economy and environment.
Ryan McCauley was a staff writer for Government Technology magazine from October 2016 through July 2017, and previously served as the publication's editorial assistant.