National Academies Press: OpenBook

Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 (2018)

Chapter: Transformational Technologies and Services

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Suggested Citation:"Transformational Technologies and Services." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
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Suggested Citation:"Transformational Technologies and Services." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
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Suggested Citation:"Transformational Technologies and Services." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
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Suggested Citation:"Transformational Technologies and Services." National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine. 2018. Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. Washington, DC: The National Academies Press. doi: 10.17226/25314.
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important consequences for sustainability, system performance, safety, equity, and goods movement. Future settlement and development patterns similarly affect future demand for infrastructure and energy, impacts on the environment, governance, and funding. Funding has broad implications for system performance, safety, goods movement, and institutional and workforce capacity. Grouping the issues into the 12 topic areas relies on judgment. More consequential than grouping the issues, however, are the choices of issues to address. The Executive Committee does not claim that its list of topics and issues is comprehensive. Transportation is a broad field of human activity that spans many disciplines and bodies of policy analysis and research across both the private and public sectors. No single person, or even group of people, can claim to be fully cognizant of the importance, status, and direction of all of the efforts under way affecting transportation. Rather, this list highlights what the Executive Committee, based on extensive consultation and its own judgment, determines to be the key issues for the transportation community, writ large, to address over the next few years. TRB’s Executive Committee will also draw on this document to select a limited number of priorities for TRB’s next strategic plan with the goal of focusing TRB’s research, studies, and activities on the most important transportation issues facing the nation. This document has been independently reviewed in draft form by individuals chosen for their diverse perspectives and technical expertise in accordance with procedures specified by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine’s Report Review Committee. The purpose of this independent review is to provide candid and critical comments that will help assure that the report is balanced, evidence based, and satisfies institutional standards for objectivity and responsiveness to the committee’s charge. The reviewers’ comments and the draft manuscript they were provided remain confidential to protect the integrity of the deliberative process. The Executive Committee appreciates the efforts of the individuals and groups who assisted in the preparation of this document and the critical review performed by 10 independent reviewers. The assistance that the Executive Committee has received has improved this report considerably. The selection and formulation of the topics and issues, however, are based on the Executive Committee’s collective judgment and it assumes sole responsibility for this document. Transformational Technologies and Services The potential autonomous operation of vehicles, vessels, and aircraft has captured the public’s imagination, and understandably so. Despite a considerable overdose of hype, automation may one day revolutionize the movement of people and goods.1 It will probably take longer to unfold than the general media implies, but advances in sensors, communication and information technologies, artificial intelligence (AI), and entrepreneurial business models may be at such an important point of inflection as to almost guarantee significant future changes and, hopefully, benefits. Advances in technology and entrepreneurship have already brought substantial innovations in service through ride-, car-, and bike-sharing services2 and in the logistics systems that make e-commerce able to trb | transportation research board4

provide next day and even same-day delivery of goods.3 The potential benefits from increased levels of automation and service innovations include improved mobility, faster deliveries, fewer crashes, reduced congestion and emissions, and better accessibility for the disabled, elderly, young, and economically disadvantaged.4 But equally possible are congested city streets and freight corridors, and more energy consumption and emissions from ubiquitously operating vehicles, as well as a sharp divide between those with the resources to purchase these services and those without them.5 Potentially most consequential in terms of passenger service, cost, and environmental impact is the combination of shared services, automation, and electric-drive technologies.6 Creating and building on synergy among these three major changes enhances the probability of achieving the benefits previously listed. Consumer preferences and market pressures will play central roles in determining which technologies and services emerge and succeed, but public policies, if exercised, can also play a key role in encouraging and directing their commercialization for the common good. Vitally important questions include which technologies will prevail in the marketplace and what their implications will be for service, safety, and the environment. (This section primarily addresses passenger issues. Transformational technologies that affect freight are discussed in the Goods Movement section.) 1. The emergence of new transportation services and connected and automated motor vehicles (CAVs) raises a variety of questions about whether and how public policy can steer their development.7 a. Fast-growing, app-based services, including transportation network companies (TNCs) such as Uber and Lyft, are providing new options for consumers but are also contributing to increased travel, congestion, and emissions in some cities.8 What policies could encourage more riders to take advantage of pooled ride options to reduce the number of trips? How can support for urban area policies, such as congestion pricing, be developed to manage demand for congested urban roads by TNCs as well as the single-occupant vehicles that account for the majority of peak travel? b. Fully automated vehicles, despite likely having a higher cost than conventional vehicles, might appeal to consumers as they could spend their time on other tasks than driving and dispatch their vehicles for other purposes during the workday. Automated vehicles operated by commercial services and optimized with AI could one day have much lower operating costs than conventional services, owing to higher asset use and reduced labor costs. They could critical issues in transportation 2019 5 Between Public and Private Mobility Examining the Rise of Technology-Enabled Transportation Services

operate almost continuously, and not always occupied. On the one hand, vehicle miles of travel, congestion, and emissions could potentially all be significantly reduced. On the other hand, automated vehicles could result in more vehicle trips and allow commuters to live even farther from where they work, facilitating additional sprawl, which could also increase total travel, congestion levels, and energy consumption. Which policy options can and should be exercised to achieve net social benefits from automated vehicles? c. Federal policy promotes connectivity among vehicles and with infrastructure (connected vehicles) that would communicate with one another at a high bandwidth to enhance safety.9 Even as automakers begin to roll out connected vehicles, they are also offering semiautomated vehicles that can take over the driving task in some applications. Many companies have promised to begin offering fully automated vehicles in the near future. Assuming a likely gradual market penetration of automated vehicles,10 it will take several decades before most of the automotive fleet is fully automated. As a result, there will be a long time span during which CAVs operate side by side with conventional driver-operated vehicles. How can the public sector foster technological innovation and steer the transition to CAVs to improve safety during this transition period? Which issues will need to be addressed to reduce risk when semiautomated and automated vehicles operate in mixed traffic with drivers of conventional vehicles? How does society approach managing public opinion and expectations and regulating semiautomated and automated technologies that may sometimes fail but nonetheless operate more safely than current vehicles?11 d. Connected vehicles may arrive much sooner than automation. Their safety benefits will be enhanced if the public sector invests in adding sensors and communications technologies to traffic signals, signs, and other infrastructure. Public investment in infrastructure, however, occurs much more slowly than new technologies enter the vehicle fleet. Indeed, the auto industry is forging ahead with CAVs that will have benefits independent of public investment in smart infrastructure. How can the misalignment between investment by the public and private sectors be overcome? What should be the highest priorities for publicly funded connected vehicle infrastructure improvements? What are the potential roles for public–private partnerships in accelerating the pace of public investment? Another important factor for connected vehicles to move forward is resolving the current debate within industry trb | transportation research board6

over whether the initiative should rely on existing digital short range communications (DSRC) technology or LTE-V2X short range communications and the forthcoming 5G direct communications evolution. The alternative to DSRC would require some reallocation of the 5.9 GHz spectrum currently set aside for DSRC.12 What is the complete set of information that policy makers need to resolve this debate over communications technology? 2. Other side effects of shared mobility services raise questions about the need for additional federal, state, or local policies.13 a. TNCs, as well as shared car, bike, and electric scooter programs, are expanding consumer options and affecting existing modes and services in different ways. In major cities total automobile use is increasing, even with TNC pooled-ride options, at the expense of transit and nonmotorized modes, even as they provide “first and last mile connections.”14,15 What and where are the opportunities for demand-responsive, app-based services to complement or link with conventional transit services, while also ensuring that the mobility disadvantaged are adequately served? (See also the discussion of access under this report’s Equity topic.) b. Many jurisdictions regulate TNCs, taxis, and other “for-hire” services differently with regard to (a) driver and vehicle safety and (b) geographic service.16 Although the regulations applied across different services may differ, how can and should this regulation allow competition to play out with a focus on achieving a consistent set of outcomes?17 3. As TNCs proliferate and companies experiment with automated vehicles, a debate has opened up about the respective safety regulatory roles of the federal government and the states.18 What is the appropriate balance of both state and federal safety regulatory oversight while enabling private-sector transportation technology development and innovation? Automated vehicles are currently being tested and developed on public roads under a voluntary federal safety framework with limited state and local oversight that is providing little disclosure to the public about the potential public risks of these tests. How much information should companies be required to share with the public about these experiments and technology development efforts? 4. Automation depends on advances in AI, software, and sensors to substitute for human operators of transportation systems. How can we ensure the consistent and safe performance of AI, software, and sensors in a diversity of both conventional and unanticipated situations? How can regulatory agencies develop expertise in overseeing performance assessment and safety assurance of the technologies behind automation?19 As automated vehicle use increases reliance on AI, software, and sensors, all of which can fail, how will product liability laws need to evolve to serve the public interest?20 5. Regardless of which transformational technologies win consumer acceptance, human beings can be expected to respond in multiple ways, including unexpected ones. Possible behavioral responses to transformational technologies are listed below. Their implications are explored further in the sections that follow addressing settlement patterns, energy consumption and emissions, demand for infrastructure, and safety. critical issues in transportation 2019 7

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TRB has released Critical Issues in Transportation 2019. In this report, which is updated periodically by the TRB Executive Committee, a series of challenging questions are posed to explore issues and opportunities that may arise 10 to 20 years into the future. These questions, 63 in all, have been organized into 12 topic areas and provide a way to frame future areas of research, policy analysis, and debate.

Critical issues identified in this report deserve attention because of transportation’s central role in serving individuals and society. This document serves to sharpen society's collective understanding of transportation and its ramifications, while informing decisions by individual citizens and officials in both the public and private sectors. The issues have been identified and documented from a U.S. perspective, and are also common across developed nations.

Download the executive overview, Critical Issues in Transportation: Policy Snapshot and or visit www.TRB.org/criticalissues from your mobile device.

On March 5, 2019, TRB and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) cohosted a webinar that covered TRB’s Critical Issues in Transportation 2019 report and the 2019-2020 NTSB’s Most Wanted List. Presenters focused on issues of safety and security across all modes of transportation.

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