Autonomous vehicles: who will use them, and will they share?

The advent of road transport automation is suggested to be one of four key technological transitions that could amount to a major transformation in mobility practices. Specifically, fully Automated Vehicles (AVs) might replace the current private car owner user model with fleets of on-demand synchronously-shared automated taxis. However, significant barriers to this vision becoming the norm remain. This paper examines two critical user-acceptance aspects of the transition: willingness to adopt AVs, and willingness to share an AV with others, particularly strangers. Our novel survey (n = 899) included a choice experiment featuring four future full automation transport services (private, synchronously/asynchronously shared, and public). Cluster analysis examined respondents’ preferences and their demographic and psychosocial characteristics. We uncover significant uncertainty about willingness to adopt automation and sharing, and important differences between clusters within our sample. For example, under 50% of participants report willingness to use an AV over their normal mode, or would prefer an automated option to a current human-driven option. Our findings raise critical questions for policymakers and transport authorities. Not least, how can AV technologies help realise the environmental and social benefits of widespread vehicle sharing in a context of a travelling public that still prefers its privacy on-the-move?

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