The state of California is keeping a watchful eye on the potential land use, environmental, and social consequences of automated vehicle deployment. On November 16, 2018, the Governor’s Office of Planning and Research announced the release of “Automated Vehicle Principles for Healthy and Sustainable Communities.” This document involved staff collaboration among state agencies, including the Office of Planning and Research, the Air Resources Board, and Caltrans.

The Automated Vehicle Principles set out several broad guiding considerations that seek to align automated vehicle deployment with other environmental and public policy objectives. The Principles address topics such as encouraging shared use and car-pooling, utilizing low-emission vehicles, promoting efficiency in vehicle size, undertaking efficient land use planning, and addressing transportation equity. These considerations are largely reflective of the research of programs like UC Davis’s 3Revolutions.

While the Automated Vehicle Principles do not impose specific standards and are more likely to serve as a general policy statement for future agency efforts, the statement is nevertheless significant. The Automated Vehicle Principles acknowledge the potential benefits to automated vehicle deployment but warn that the potential consequences could be severe if automated vehicles are deployed without careful consideration of the environmental, land use, and social impacts of the new technologies.

For example, if automated vehicles are deployed as personally owned vehicles, automated technologies could increase vehicle miles traveled since it may reduce disincentives for long commutes. But if automated vehicles are deployed in a manner that is shared, pooled, and properly-sized, then automated vehicles could help reduce vehicle miles traveled.

We expect further and more concrete steps by OPR, CARB, Caltrans, and other state agencies to address the issues raised in the Automated Vehicle Principles, including new policies and proposed legislation. This will likely include measures to encourage cities to incorporate these principles into their land use and transportation planning efforts.