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Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles on Public Health: A Conceptual Model and Policy Recommendations

By: Soheil Sohrabi

Summarized Description:

Supporting policies are required to govern the (unintended) negative consequences of Autonomous Vehicle (AV) implementation and to maximize their benefits. The first step towards formulating policies is to identify the potential impacts of AVs. While the impacts of AVs on the economy, environment, and society are well explored, the discussion around their beneficial and adverse impacts on public health is still in its infancy. Based on evidence from previous systematic reviews about AVs’ impacts, we developed a conceptual model in this study to systematically identify the potential health impacts of AVs in cities. The proposed model, first, summarizes the potential changes in transportation after AV implementation into seven points of impact: (1) transportation infrastructure, (2) land use and the built environment, (3) traffic flow, (4) transportation mode choice, (5) transportation equity, (6) jobs related to transportation, and (7) traffic safety. Second, transportation-related risk factors that affect health are outlined. Third, information from the first two steps is consolidated, and the potential pathways between AVs and public health are formulated. Based on the proposed model, we found that AVs can impact public health through 32 pathways, of which 17 can adversely impact health, eight can positively impact health, and seven are uncertain. The health impacts of AVs are contingent upon supporting policies. Equipping AVs with electric motors, regulating urban area development, implementing traffic demand management strategies, controlling AV ownership, and imposing ride-sharing policies are some strategies that can reinforce the positive impacts of AVs on public health.

Pic 1: The proposed conceptual model for assessing the AVs’ health implications

Pic 2: Mapping health issues attributable to transportation

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