Autonomous Vehicles and Emerging Mobility Systems

With rapid advancements in technology and progressive steps in policymaking, emerging transportation technologies such as autonomous vehicles and other new mobility systems (such as ride-hailing, ridesharing, and other micro-mobility solutions) are on the horizon. STEMS Lab has extensive experience conducting studies that look at assessing public opinions and sentiments on these futuristic technologies. Further, we are interested in assessing the benefits of these systems in bridging the gap between accessibility and mobility for jobs, and healthcare and the role they would play in fostering upward mobility. Additionally, we are also curious to investigate the effects of state-wide policies and legislation on the market penetration of these transportation technologies.

Shared Mobility Systems

With burgeoning inflation, fuel costs, and the rapid advancement of technology and innovation, newer business models in vehicle ownership have made it possible to partake in a sharing economy and reduce the costs of vehicle ownership without compromising on flexibility, comfort, and convenience. But recent life-altering events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have created a dent in how shared mobility systems are viewed from a user’s perspective owing to the fear of infection spread and concerns over the operational efficiencies of such systems. STEMS Lab is interested in assessing the impact of life-altering events (such as the COVID-19 pandemic) on the usage of shared mobility systems. While these systems promise new dawn, peer research reveals how far these systems are from becoming inclusive, and equitable transportation modes. As such communities that are considered transportation disadvantaged have been excluded from partaking in the benefits of the sharing economy. We are also intrigued to explore connections between existing policies and barriers to entry for shared mobility systems among members of the transportation disadvantaged communities.

Travel Demand and Travel Behavior

STEMS Lab possesses expertise in understanding the impact of transportation technologies and life-altering events on travel behavior, and future travel demand. We continue to be involved in assessments that explore the impact of autonomous vehicles on medium and longer-term lifestyle decisions such as residential location, health/well-being, and social welfare. We have also conducted studies and published manuscripts on assessing the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on activity participation, trip making, travel behavior, and attitudes towards emerging mobility systems. We recently concluded a nationwide study on commuting where we investigated major trends in commute mode choice, trip making, and travel behavior across geographies and within demographic groups in the United States. In our quest for playing a role in creating equitable, inclusive transportation systems, we are currently looking at identifying travel behavioral challenges faced by users with travel-restricted medical conditions and the potential for emerging mobility systems to bridge mobility and accessibility gaps of these disadvantaged segments.

Sustainable Communities

As proponents of a sustainable future with reduced emphasis on vehicle ownership and shared use of resources, STEMS Lab has a deep interest in transportation planning and transportation system impacts on equity, health, and well-being. Particularly, data-driven investigations on the impact of mass evacuations (during hurricanes as well as wildfires) on vulnerable populations who may face challenges evacuating – either due to reduced resources, or significant other constraints (such as health, mobility) that increase risks during such maneuvers. We have conducted past assessments on estimating transportation system/project impacts on air quality, equity, health, and well-being and are always looking to work more for our communities. Lastly, we are also interested in exploring the role of sustainable transport systems on community access to healthy foods, jobs, and healthcare.