I am the Director of Urbanism Next at the University of Oregon and I would like to commend this effort to address access around AVs. I want to urge the board to make sure they are addressing the entire ecosystem of transportation (not only the vehicle or the vehicle travel portion of trips). We have recently published a report with AARP and RAND on the impacts of AVs on Older Adults and one of the key takeaways is that there are a broad range of issues we need to address if we are trying to provide access to all. This includes issues with the vehicle (that you are starting to address in the first few sessions) such as the ability to enter/exit the vehicle, safety during the trip, addressing what happens when something goes wrong with the technology, and the ability to take goods/aids with the passenger. But, there are also a large list of issues in addition to these such as:
- Does the vehicle service go where you need?
- Is the service available in all areas?
- Is the service going to continue to be available (and not suddenly cut off if it is no longer profitable - as has happened with other new mobility offerings)
- Are users able to call vehicles (due to smart phone access, data plans, ease/familiarity with tech use)
- Can a user find a vehicle when it arrives?
- Does a user know how to orient themselves after dropped off (for instance, if an older adult is dropped off at an unfamiliar door to a large hospital)?
- What happens in inclement weather?
- Are users being picked up/dropped off near curb-cuts or in areas that are safe/accessible for them?
- Are these services affordable?
- How are these services impacting other transportation options (such as transit --- TNCs have negatively impacted transit, if AVs continue that trend, the hardest to serve could find themselves with an ever reducing list of options for transport)
Other key takeaways were that 'harder-to-serve' populations are largely not being addressed by the public or private sector and that there is a general lack of consensus on who should be addressing these issues (public/private sectors, advocacy orgs, and what levels of govt). In our roundtable for this project, leaders from across the country said they had no clear idea of who might have the best know-how, experience, jurisdiction, funding to take the lead on the various questions listed above. This was not an issue of finger-pointing, but instead a sincere moment of head-scratching that pointed to the dire need for further thinking/dialog and forums to develop a better understanding of the issues at play and how to address them.
As I mentioned above, we truly need to think of this as an entire 'AV ecosystem' issue - and think well beyond the issues around vehicles themselves. Those are important, but in no way sufficient if we want to get to equitable outcomes.
The report we produced with AARP and RAND is attached and can also be found here: https://www.urbanismnext.org/resources/older-adults-new-mobility-and-automated-vehicles
I look forward to continuing the conversation.
Director, Urbanism Next Center, University of Oregon