What do we (Not) know about our future with automated vehicles?

Mustapha Harb*, Amanda Stathopoulos, Yoram Shiftan, Joan L. Walker

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

50 Scopus citations


While research on developing and testing automated vehicle (AVs) technologies is well underway, research on their implications on travel-related behavior is in its infancy. The aim of this paper is to summarize and analyze literature that focuses on travel-related behavior impacts of AVs, namely levels 4 and 5, as well as highlight important directions of research. We review five methods used to quantitatively investigate these implications and how each method contributes to this literature: 1) controlled testbeds, 2) driving simulators and virtual reality, 3) agent-based and travel-demand models, 4) surveys, and 5) field experiments. We also present five critical research questions regarding the implications of AVs on the demand side of transportation and summarize findings from the current literature on: 1) what is the willingness to adopt the technology? and what are the impacts of the technology on 2) in-vehicle behavior? 3) value of time? 4) travel-related behaviors (activity pattern, mode, destination, residential location)? and 5) vehicle miles traveled (VMT)? Results can be divided into four categories. The first category corresponds to results on research questions with numerous data points where the direction of the impact is consistent across the literature, albeit the magnitude varies considerably. For instance, surveys indicate 19% to 68% of people are unwilling to adopt AV technology, a sentiment that is fading over time. Moreover, people prefer owning AVs over sharing them and don't believe their car ownership will decrease. Regarding VMT, most studies predict an increase that varies from a low of 1% to a high of 90% depending on the scenario and assumptions under study. The second category of findings corresponds to research questions with limited and consistent, albeit highly variable data points. For example, a few stated preference survey studies indicate that reduced stress and multitasking during travel will reduce the value of time between 5% and 90%. The third category of results is on research questions with a few but conflicting data points. For instance, surveys indicate that people (80% to 85%) do not believe their residential location will be impacted by the adoption of AVs. Some simulation studies, however, indicate that lower travel costs will drive people away from cities and into suburbs while other studies report the opposite. The final category of results corresponds to research question with a single or no data points. For instance, one study explores how users will use vehicles to run errands while no studies investigate user preferences for vehicle types (e.g. mobile-homes vs. right-sized) or how they plan to use their vehicles when they are not needed (e.g. rent out vs. leave them idle). Moving forward, the goal is to shift all results into the first category while simultaneously tightening the prediction interval of the magnitude of the impacts. This can be achieved by: 1) focusing more efforts on research questions that fall under the three remaining categories to fill the holes in the literature, and 2) establishing consistency and clarity of assumptions used by researchers to enable comparisons and transferability of results.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number102948
JournalTransportation Research Part C: Emerging Technologies
StatePublished - Feb 2021


  • Automated vehicles
  • Fields experiments
  • Literature review
  • Simulation models
  • Stated preference surveys
  • Travel behavior

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation
  • Automotive Engineering
  • Civil and Structural Engineering
  • Management Science and Operations Research


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