Can We Advance Social Equity with Shared, Autonomous and Electric Vehicles?

Author: 

Stuart Cohen, TransForm and Sahar Shirazi, California Governor's Office of Planning and Research

Year Published: 

2016

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Summary

For more than half a century our transportation system has largely focused on moving cars, in part to support increasingly sprawling land uses. Overreliance on vehicles has come at a high expense to personal budgets, public health and the environment. Very low-income families spend, on average, over 30% of their income on transportation. For those without a private vehicle, limited access to jobs, education, health care and other opportunities is a barrier to self-sufficiency. Pollution from vehicles leads to asthma and a host of diseases that fall hardest on communities of color.

As shared mobility and autonomous vehicles (AVs) reshape our transportation system, they offer a critical chance to redress these inequities. Without smart policy and planning, however, they may instead widen the access and inequality gap. This brief focuses on solutions that can benefit the following disadvantaged communities:

  1. Low-income communities
  2. Mobility-challenged people, including people with disabilities, seniors and youth
  3. Other historically disadvantaged communities, including people of color, immigrant communities (including those with language barriers) and rural communities

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A future with shared, electric autonomous vehicles holds many promises. But without an intentional focus on equity, it may exacerbate existing barriers and increase inequality. Policymakers must consider not only how to deploy this technology quickly and safely, but also how it can be used to improve the lives of those who need it most.