Automated vehicles and underserved populations

A University of Texas at Arlington civil engineering professor is developing a framework for evaluating the use of automated vehicles and how they relate to underserved populations across a five-state area.

Stephen Mattingly
Stephen Mattingly

Stephen Mattingly is using a $106,000 Tran-SET grant out of the University Transportation Center at Louisiana State University to build this framework.

“We will be looking at environmental justice populations. If you’re a person or a family that’s low-income and transit-dependent, we’re trying to make sure that projected technological advancements do not exacerbate existing disparities or create new challenges,” he said. “Without careful attention, a huge risk of any new benefits coming to transportation systems is that it may not accrue to vulnerable populations. We will be looking at different planning scenarios that better serve those underserved populations before they get left behind.”

One example of potential disparities: One state might have an insurance market that supports automated vehicles while another state does not, Mattingly said. The nation does not have a federal insurance market, so this project could examine a potential framework from which to work.

“Some states are making infrastructure investment for electric vehicles; others are not,” Mattingly said. “How does that affect the emergence of future scenarios? Those are questions that we hope the project will answer.”

Melanie Sattler, interim chair and professor in the Department of Civil Engineering, said Mattingly’s work is essential to helping these underserved populations.

“There are so many different underserved populations in both urban and rural areas, as well as differences in existing infrastructure, among these five states,” Sattler said. “This project will develop a toolkit of strategies to help public agencies react to and proactively pursue policies that will work for their locales.”

Tran-SET represents U.S. Department of Transportation Region 6, which includes Texas, Arkansas, Louisiana, New Mexico and Oklahoma. In 2016, the federal transportation agency awarded about $300 million in grants to 32 University Transportation Centers to advance research and education programs that address critical transportation challenges facing the nation.

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