Abstract for:The Effect of Autonomous Vehicles on Demand for Driving: Is Pooling the Solution to Avoiding Traffic Gridlock?
Autonomous vehicle (AV) technologies have emerged rapidly in recent years. Advocates argue that AVs will make driving safer, cheaper, and faster, promoting a utopian vision where the ability to summon a vehicle on demand will decrease vehicle ownership, and reduce traffic and environmental impacts. AV skeptics, in contrast, have suggested that such convenience will induce additional travel demand, offsetting the efficiency gains of autonomous driving, and leading to more congestion and pollution. Many are convinced that the solution lies in ensuring most trips are shared to reduce congestion by increasing occupancy, and mandating that AVs are electric to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. However, such proposals commonly fail to consider that if pooling were to become cheap and convenient then yet more demand for driving will be induced. In this paper we develop a dynamic model of the impact of AVs on travel demand and traffic volume. We demonstrate that in the absence of other regulations, pooling induces more driving following the attractiveness principle, offsetting the assumed benefits. For policies to effectively address the negative externalities of driving, they need to reduce, not increase, the relative attractiveness of driving. Our results have important implications for the design of urban AV policies.