The Role of Economics on the Road to Autonomous Vehicles and Digital Mobility

17 August 2021
Daniel Hanson, Richard Eichmann, Richard Marsden, George Anstey, Grant Saggers, Dr. Garrett Glasgow, Dr. C-Philipp Heller, Dr. Hector Lopez, Dr. Bruno Soria, Dr. Will Taylor, and Adam Rhoten

A transport revolution is coming. In the future, our streets and highways will be populated by autonomous vehicles (AVs)—cars and trucks that drive themselves. The revolution in technology required to enable this is underway and could be spurred on as COVID-19 is pushing people away from large-scale public transport and in light of the renewed push towards decarbonisation. Advances will be required in the economics of the transport sector and of the communications and energy grids required to connect AVs—a transformation that will draw on the economics of market design and appraisal, competition and regulation, IP and data privacy, and disputes. For this paper, we brought together 10 NERA economists—each an expert in a related sector or branch of economics—to explore the economics involved in the road to autonomous vehicles and digital mobility.

Our experts explore changes that are set to revolutionise transport, including:

  • Mobility as a Service (MaaS)—We expect the continued development of organisations that assist customers in switching from a model where most of the monetary travel costs are paid upfront (car ownership and insurance) to one where customers pay for use.
  • Ubiquitous Road Pricing—We anticipate that the switch to MaaS will help break down the reluctance of consumers to pay for road use. Road pricing can provide a mechanism to manage growth in demand, finance road infrastructure, and prevent harmful congestion.

Mobility as a Service (MaaS)

The new transport ecosystem is illustrated in the figure below. MaaS will be a linchpin for this ecosystem, integrating AV manufacturers, AV service providers, transit companies, mobility providers, and even train companies through digital technology and joint ventures. Above them sit the providers and managers of the transport infrastructure required to support AVs. The upper sides of the ecosystem are formed by the retailers, providers, and regulators of the electricity and mobile data networks that will keep AVs on the road. At the top of the ecosystem are the national and city transport regulators and, finally, the governments and international bodies that together or separately will shape the policies, laws, and standards for MaaS platforms and AVs.

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