Jul 17, 2020 - Economy

How autonomous vehicles could improve mobility for the poor

Image of Nuro's delivery vehicle with groceries inside

Photo courtesy of Nuro.

One of the expected benefits of autonomous vehicles is improving access to transportation for underserved populations.

Why it matters: Transportation is often too expensive, inconvenient or even non-existent in poor communities.

Driving the news: Two pieces of research were shared this week by organizations hoping to prod the federal government on regulatory action governing self-driving cars.

AV delivery company Nuro, writing in a company blog, found that its delivery vehicles could reach 14 million, or 70%, of low-income households in "food deserts" who can't get to grocery stores on their own.

  • Doing so would require the Transportation Department to modernize its regulations to allow driverless vehicles like Nuro's to operate above 25 miles per hour.

Meanwhile, transportation policy experts at Securing America's Future Energy, a lobby group, found poor families using on-demand, automated vehicles could save as much as $5,600 per household, and have access to better jobs.

The bottom line: Access to reliable, affordable transit is a key factor in upward social mobility.

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