Simulating Life with Personally-Owned Autonomous Vehicles through a Naturalistic Experiment with Personal Drivers

Research Team: Joan Walker (lead), Mustapha Harb, Giovanni Circella, and Jai Malik

UC Campus(es): UC Berkeley, UC Davis

Problem Statement: To date, little is known about how travel will change with self-driving vehicles. The biggest difference in using a self-driving car, and arguably the feature that will cause the most change in travel behavior, is not having to be behind the wheel driving the car or having to be in the car at all as it travels from one place to another. Existing behavioral studies exploring this unknown future are limited because they either focus on safety and human factors rather than travel behavior, assume travel behavior implications, or ask about hypothetical scenarios that are unfamiliar to the subjects.

Project Description: Efforts to estimate the extent of potential travel behavior changes have been imprecise to date. Researchers and planners have typically relied on surveys asking people how they would change their behavior in a hypothetical autonomous vehicle future, or adjustments to existing travel simulations to model the impact of autonomous vehicles. In this study, the research team used a new approach to understand the potential influence of autonomous vehicles on travel behavior by conducting a naturalistic experiment mimicking the effect of autonomous vehicle ownership. Households from the greater Sacramento area were recruited to participate in the travel study. The authors attempted to recruit a diverse sample of households in terms of key socio-demographics, household composition, and average weekly vehicle miles traveled (VMT) of the household members. Private chauffeurs served as an “autonomous” vehicle by taking over driving duties for the household and household travel prior to, during, and after the week(s) with access to the chauffeur service was tracked.

Status: Completed

Budget: $170,000

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