Research & Discoveries (R&D): Manhattan Institute Study Confirms the Need to Break Down Policy Barriers For AVs

Academics and experts around the world are studying how AVs can improve safety, enhance mobility, and create new economic opportunities, among other transformative benefits. AVIA’s Research & Discoveries (R&D) Series highlights these reports’ findings about how AVs can create a safer and more mobile world.

Need To Know (NTK): AVs Can Improve Roadway Safety and Reduce Transportation Costs, But Regulation Remains the Chief "Bottleneck" to Broad AV Development 
The Manhattan Institute recently conducted a landscape analysis of public data pertaining to two AV use cases: autonomous ride-hailing and autonomous freight trucking. Based on their findings, AV adoption is being delayed primarily because of regulatory uncertainties, and as a result, the report offers suggested policy reforms to accelerate AV deployments.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) collision-causation survey found that in 94% of collisions the “immediate reason for the critical pre-crash event” was the vehicle’s human driver. Intoxication, fatigue, distraction, and reckless driving result in less vehicle control for humans leading to injuries to themselves and other road users.

The RAND Corporation found in their report Safe Enough: Approaches to Assessing Acceptable Safety for Autonomous Vehicles, status quo bias – i.e. peoples’ preference to keep things the way they currently are – clouds their evaluation of AVs. Because people are used to human driving and the significant loss of life that comes with it, these risks are taken as a given. Since AVs don’t drive impaired, distracted or recklessly, we no longer need to accept this gruesome status quo.

Between 2020-2022, the U.S. had an average of 41,471 deaths on our roadways. This represents a marked surge totaling 4+ million lost lives since cars became the prominent transportation method a century ago.

Meanwhile, a report published by McKinsey found that the U.S. could save up to $190 billion annually if AVs were to supplant human drivers and prevent the tens of thousands of deaths and millions of injuries that they cause each year.

According to the Manhattan Institute analysis, autonomous ride-hail brings with it the safety benefits of AVs for all road users while also presenting customers with a new and lower-cost service option. In addition, autonomous ride-hail stands to lower prices for consumers in the long run based on fewer cost factors (e.g. empty miles traveled; driver pay) and shared costs over more vehicles.

The Manhattan Institute points out that within the U.S., trucks move about 70% percent of freight. Given ongoing shortages, which the American Transportation Research Institute projects will grow to a 160,000 driver deficit by 2030, which is one of the reasons why the Manhattan Institute finds that AV trucks will help fill these supply chain gaps. Based on the safe, steady, and more flexible driving efficiencies of autonomous trucks, the technology will make roads safer while also helping to reduce medical and fuel costs. At the same time, U.S. Department of Transportation-commissioned research concluded that autonomous trucking will increase the number of U.S. jobs by as many as 35,000.

The Manhattan Institute study points to a McKinsey survey of automotive and technological leaders that found 52% of respondents believe regulation remains the biggest bottleneck for AVs. Based on the Manhattan Institute’s landscape analysis of available research, they shared policy priorities to help usher in AV deployments in cities, states and the nation. The report concludes that governments at every level can ensure their constituents reap the high-value benefits by reducing regulatory uncertainty around two use cases of AVs: autonomous trucking and autonomous ride-hail.