Technological innovations create new challenges for policy, which almost always is developed in reaction to existing technologies. Unless policy makers have a good understanding of how technology is evolving, new or unchanged policies can act as constraints to realizing the full benefits of new technology. Information technology is dramatically changing the management and operation of transportation systems.
In particular, recent technological and regulatory developments indicate that automated or “self-driving” cars may be as close to reality as ever. Given the potential benefits to safety, infrastructure efficiency, and access, planners need to develop scenarios that consider how the widespread use of these vehicles will impact transportation and land use patterns, as well as related activities.
- SLPP is a partner in a three-year study funded by the federal government, examining how to leverage the emergence of autonomous vehicles to rethink and redesign transportation services.
- In collaboration with the Transportation Policy and Economic Competitiveness (TPEC) program, SLPP researchers formed a self-driving vehicle (SDV) task force in spring of 2017 to identify how various SDV deployment strategies could improve mobility and access for transportation-dependent Minnesotans: seniors, people with disabilities, and others who are not able to drive themselves. Read their final report.
- SLPP sponsored a symposium on these issues in October 2014, with the proceedings included in an issue of the Minnesota Journal of Law, Science and Technology.
Technology also is contributing to improvements in transportation policy in the near term. SLPP has led research into car sharing, where people use cars for short periods of time, usually by the hour; transit services for individuals who, because of age, disability, poverty, or other reasons, cannot routinely use automobiles; and bike sharing.
These services, commonly known as community-based transportation, are often criticized for needing to be more effective and efficient, given the resources expended. SLPP’s research seeks to understand the full range of activities that fall within the purview of community-based transit, to identify and clarify the possible sources of inefficiency, and to develop ways to make the systems work better.
SLPP has examined how telecommunications technologies enable a wide variety of transportation options and enhancements, especially telework.
The program has partnered with the State of Minnesota and the Metropolitan Council to develop the eWorkPlace project, which provides resources that employers can use to establish and promote telecommuting.
SLPP collaborated on Project STRIDE (Strategic Telework Research in Disability Employment), which conducted research to determine how well telework will answer the needs of employees with disabilities.