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Conference Abstract: Active Travel in the Autonomous Vehicles' Era

This is the abstract submitted for a presentation given at the annual conference of the North American Regional Science Council (NARSC), held November 13-16, in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  The presentation was given by Lisa Losada Rojas, based on her work on the CCAT project Ridesharing, Active Travel Behavior, and Personal Health: Implications for Shared Autonomous Vehicles.

Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) might reshape the built environment, mobility, and safety in ways that are still being explored.  AVs are expected to provide more mobility choices to the elderly and to underserved areas, to reduce traffic congestion and transportation costs, and to improve parking needs, among others.  However, few studies have been conducted to date to explore whether AVs could promote or discourage active travel behavior.  This is an important issue to examine as the reduction in active travel and physical activity in general can lead to an increase of non-communicable diseases (NCD), which are responsible for two-thirds of all deaths globally.   This paper proposes a methodology to assess the potential impacts of AVs on active travel behavior and personal health outcomes in the Chicago, IL, metropolitan area.  Publicly available data was used to perform the analysis.  Preliminary results show that areas of high acceptance of AVs are generally lacking opportunities for active travel and show high levels of NCD.  Therefore, AV implementation based only on acceptance rates might have adverse personal health outcomes.  The results of this study can help transportation and health professionals gain a better understanding of the health-related impacts that AVs could have in urban areas and devise strategies to better capitalize the benefits and mitigate the adverse impacts that this technology could bring (, NCD increase) through transportation and public health policies.