The Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard Kennedy School: Who We Are and What We Hope To Achieve
By Mark Fagan, Harvard Kennedy School
Two fatal accidents involving autonomous cars in recent weeks have shaken up media and policymakers not just in the U.S. The video that Uber released after one of its test vehicles killed a pedestrian in Tempe, Arizona, has made headlines around the globe. This accident and the fatal Tesla crash shortly afterwards have put many questions back on the agenda of citizens and of policy- and decisionmakers on a national, state, and local level. Questions concerning the safety of AV technology, its value for the public, and how it can be governed so that communities really benefit from the progress that Autonomous Vehicles promise.
Today we are announcing the launch of the Autonomous Vehicle Policy Initiative (AVPI), a Harvard Kennedy School Think-and-Do-Tank for a world with fully autonomous vehicles.
At AVPI, we make three offerings:
Firstly, we have developed a new format of data-riven policy analysis and strategy consulting that can keep up with the rapid speed of technological development in the Autonomous Vehicle realm. We call it the AV policy scrum.
The AV policy scrum combines elements from agile software development, rapid prototyping, the Google design sprint, and classic data-based policy analysis. With the convening power of Harvard, we bring all relevant parties from the private and the public sector to the table. This includes car manufacturers, startups, NGOs, policymakers, industry experts. Then, within only 24 hours, we guide them with the help of our framework to develop a set of actionable short-, medium- and long-term policy options that work for both, for private companies and for policymakers of cities, states, and at the federal level. We have tested this format successfully with the city of Boston in March, we will take it international to Toronto next month, and then to other cities across the U.S. and across the world in the second half of the year and beyond. If you are a policymaker, startup, or a state and national government wrestling with the right policies and strategy for a future with Autonomous Vehicles, we strive to be your go-to-place. Get in touch with us to participate in an AV policy scrum. Follow us on Twitter or here on Medium to receive our updates.
Secondly, we strive to continuously inform and support policymakers in cities, states, and communities in the U.S. and around the world with our AV analysis and research, so that they can develop the best policy options for a future with autonomous vehicles. We will publish our analysis here on our blog and on our website.
AVPI is based at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at the Harvard Kennedy School. In Boston, our team sits in the midst of an active AV test city, where we actually see AVs on our streets. Moreover, some of the research and development for AVs is done by the world-class institutions in our backyard: MIT and Harvard’s School of Engineering. We are uniquely positioned to tap into the expertise of a vast community of Harvard and MIT scholars. But what is more, over the past year we have built a national and international network of policy, business, and technology experts in the autonomous vehicles space. The network unites transportation experts with private sector professionals, startup entrepreneurs, or TNC employees that all have the technical knowledge to assess what is under the engine hood of an autonomous vehicle. We connect them with policymakers, NGOs, community organizers, academics from around the globe, consultants, and domain experts in transportation and urban planning. In alignment with the Taubman Center’s mission, AVPI seeks to improve the governance of states, metropolitan areas, and cities as it relates to Autonomous Vehicles through research, teaching, and public events.
Thirdly, we curate and constantly update a Policy Knowledge Toolkit, a list of resrouces and articles that we think can provide a reader with a baseline knowledge on AV policy and strategy.
I have first considered founding AVPI in the spring of 2017, when I developed and taught a special module on Autonomous Vehicle policy to first year Master of Public Policy students here at the Harvard Kennedy School. Two intensive weeks of policy analysis with over 200 students and experts have demonstrated to me the great need for a policy center to get ahead on the many areas that autonomous vehicles will touch and disrupt, from urban planning to the insurance sector, from hospital emergency rooms to curb space. In the past year, I have come to think of the autonomous vehicles disruption from a policy point of view in five broads areas: Land Use & Urban Planning, Public Transportation & Vehicle Ownership, Congestion, Health and Safety, and finally Autonomous Vehicles policy around the globe, because the effort to introduce Autonomous Vehicles is a global one. I strongly assume that this list will evolve over time. For now, we have put together a list of articles and resources for each of these five topics. We will add our own research here on the blog to stay up to speed with the technological development of AVs.
Now finally, with the Autonomous Vehicle Policy Initiative at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard Kennedy School, we strive to fill a gap between rapid technological development and the policy options that decision makers face in a future with autonomous vehicles. We would like to invite you to join us on this journey into the future: spread the word, follow our analysis, come and participate in our AV policy scrums. The idea of self-driving cars and trucks is a visionary one, but it can only truly fulfill its potential and promise, if it is shaped by humans to meet their needs.
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