Aptitudes for Regulating Autonomous Vehicles: A Survey of Municipal Officials

TitleAptitudes for Regulating Autonomous Vehicles: A Survey of Municipal Officials
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2020
AuthorsYonah Freemark, Anne Hudson, Jinhua Zhao
Conference NameTransportation Research Board 99th Annual Meeting
Conference LocationWashington, D.C.

Local governments play an important role in urban transportation through street management, zoning, right-of-way apportionment, and shared jurisdiction over ride-hailing, transit, and road pricing. While cities can harness these powers to steer the development of new transportation technologies, there is little research about what local officials think about making autonomous vehicle (AV)-related policy changes. We compile key AV-related transportation policies and conduct a large survey of municipal officials throughout the United States. In addition to exploring officials´ personal support for each policy, we examine other aspects of municipal decision-making, including the bureaucratic capacity, legal capacity, and political support for each policy. We find broad personal support among officials for regulations in the areas of land use, right-of-way, and equity, such as for increasing pedestrian street space, expanding access for low-income and disabled people, and reducing sprawl. However, officials emphasized uncertainty with regards to bureaucratic or legal capacity for city intervention outside of land use, right-of-way, and equity; and only a minority expected political support for any policy. Requiring shared vehicles and banning single occupancy vehicles evinced the lowest support of any policy across all spectrums, raising concerns about ongoing efforts to encourage a transportation system with fewer single-occupancy vehicles We identify population size and local-resident political ideology to be most strongly associated with personal and political support for most policies (officials from cities with more liberal residents are much more likely to support AV-related regulations), but local population growth is the most significant characteristic in influencing capacity to undertake policies.