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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Expert: Policy for autonomous vehicle industry is "like the Wild West"

Joann Muller (R) and Selika Josiah Talbott (L). Photo: Axios screenshot

A lack of federal policy has hampered the autonomous car industry's transparency with communities where the vehicles are tested, American University professor Selika Josiah Talbott said during a virtual Axios event on Tuesday.

What she's saying: "We need guidelines. Right now, it's like the Wild West. We need bumpers in place so we don't have rogue actions testing vehicles on the roadway and possibly causing harm to the general public," Talbott said.

Transportation official: Los Angeles is using driverless technology to improve pedestrian safety

Joann Muller (L) and Seleta Reynolds (R). Photo: Axios

Pedestrian safety sits at the forefront of planning for the adoption of autonomous vehicles in Los Angeles, the city's general manager of the Transportation Department, Seleta Reynolds, said on Tuesday during a virtual Axios event.

Catch up quick: Reynolds said that the lesson learned from working with auto manufacturers, software creators and USDOT for four to five years is "that we probably wouldn't be able to rely on [autonomous vehicles] to solve pedestrian safety, and instead, we would need to take those kinds of things back into our own hands."

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