Allanté Whitmore, a PhD student researcher studying autonomous vehicles at Carnegie Mellon University, agreed with Greenlining’s analysis that government policy will determine whether the ongoing transportation revolutions will be a blessing that lifts people out of poverty or a scourge that further entrenches inequities and lengthens commutes.
The Greenlining report points out that the poorest 20 percent of Americans spend 40 percent of their income on keeping their cars running. We don’t need to wait for autonomous buses to put better transportation policy in place, Whitmore said, but “the appeal of this technology really elevates the discussion. It gets people excited.”
And it’s not just hype. Whitmore’s research suggests that lower fuel and employment costs could allow cities to significantly expand their bus systems using driverless electric shuttles. Running on electricity is cheaper than running on gas, and cities wouldn’t have to pay salaries for bus routes without drivers. “These new technologies are a lot more cost efficient,” she said.