Civil and Environmental Engineering

Anticipating a world of shared autonomous vehicles: cost, energy, and urban system implications

February 03, 2017

10:30 a.m.

Porter Hall 100

Kara M. Kockelman
Professor, and E.P. Schoch Professor in Engineering
Department of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering
The University of Texas


Connected and (fully-) automated vehicles (CAVs) are set to disrupt the ways in which we travel. CAVs will affect road safety, congestion levels, vehicle ownership and destination choices, long-distance trip-making frequencies, mode choices, and home and business locations. Benefits in the form of crash savings, driving burden reductions, fuel economy, and parking cost reductions are on the order of $2,000 per year per CAV, rising to nearly $5,000 when comprehensive crash costs are reflected. However, vehicle-miles traveled (VMT) are likely to rise, due to AVs traveling empty, longer-distance trip-making, and access for those currently unable to drive, such as those with disabilities. New policies and practices are needed, to avoid CAV pitfalls while exploiting their benefits.

Shared AVs (SAVs) will offer many people access to such technologies at relatively low cost (e.g., $1 per mile), with empty-vehicle travel on the order of 10 to 15 percent of fleet VMT. If SAVs are smaller and more fuel efficient, and dynamic ride-sharing is enabled and regularly used, emissions and energy demand may fall. If road tolls are thoughtfully applied, using GPS across all congested segments and times of day, total VMT may not rise: instead, travel times - and their unreliability - may fall. If credit-based congestion pricing is used, traveler welfare may rise and transportation systems may ultimately operate near-optimally.

This presentation will present research relating to all these topics, to help engineering students and researchers think about policies, technologies, and other tools to improve quality of life for all travelers.


UT Austin’s Schoch Professor of Civil, Architectural and Environmental Engineering, Dr. Kockelman holds a PhD, MS, and BS in civil engineering, a Masters of City Planning, and a minor in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. She has received a Google Research Award, NSF CAREER Award, MIT’s Technology Review Top 100 Innovators award, and ASCE’s Huber Research Prize, Bartholomew Award, and Laurie Prize. She is the author of over 140 archival journal articles, serves on several committees of the Transportation Research Board, and served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Ecuador.

Dr. Kockelman's research with her students emphasizes the impacts of connected and automated vehicles, statistical modeling of urban systems (including models of travel behavior, trade, and location choice), energy and climate issues (vis-à-vis transport and land use decisions), the economic impacts of transport policy, and crash occurrence and consequences. She has conducted research for the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the National Cooperative and Strategic Highway Research Programs, the University Transportation Centers program, the North Central Texas Council of Governments, and the Texas and Oregon Departments of Transportation.

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