The Taubman Center for State and Local Government at Harvard Kennedy School today announced the launch of its Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative. Established to inform and support policymakers in states, cities, and metropolitan regions in the United States and around the world, the Initiative will provide the latest in AV policy research, analysis, and recommendations so government officials can develop the best policy approaches for a future in which self-driving vehicles are a reality. 

“Self-driving cars, trucks, and other autonomous vehicles will fundamentally disrupt how state and local policymakers think about urban planning, budgeting, public transportation, and mobility in general in the coming years.” said Professor Mark Fagan, founder and director of the AV Policy Initiative. “We have established the AV Policy Initiative not only to help advance the adoption of driverless vehicle technology, but to assist governors, mayors, and other local leaders as they assess next steps in establishing AV policies in the public’s interest.”

The Initiative has been launched in a series of “policy scrums,” an innovative model to help cities and states develop thinking and policy recommendations related to this disruptive and quickly evolving technology. Developed by Professor Fagan, the AV Policy Scrums are intensive 24-hour sessions, which bring together key cross-sector stakeholders from city and state government, the private sector, academia, transit authorities, and the wider local communities.

Professor Fagan, along with other Harvard Kennedy School (HKS) faculty members, Taubman Center staff, and HKS graduate students, facilitate robust policy discussions and provide summary findings and policy recommendations, all developed by the AV Policy Scrum participants. The goal of the AV Policy Scrum sessions is to develop innovative and actionable policy approaches to AV technology implementation. The AV Policy Scrums serve as hackathons or design sprints for the various facets of AV policy. The first set of AV Policy Scrums have taken place in Boston, Toronto, and Kansas City. 

"Autonomous vehicles could help us deliver the safer, more reliable, more accessible transportation network our residents want, but only if we get the public policy right" said Chris Osgood, Boston's Chief of Streets. "The HKS Taubman Center’s AV Policy Initiative has helped us work with a wide variety of stakeholders to advance our thinking on the specifics of this policy -- in particular and importantly, the policies that prioritize shared trips."

“We're planning for a future with automated vehicles in Toronto that supports our broader mobility and city-building goals,” said Barbara Gray, General Manager of Transportation Services for the City of Toronto. “By working with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center to host an AV Policy Scrum, we were able to collaborate across multiple sectors to develop policy proposals that help us proactively harness the potential of AVs.”    

“Autonomous vehicle technology is fast emerging, faster than many states and cities have been able to develop effective policy approaches,” said Carol Suter, Mayor Pro Tem of the City of Gladstone, Missouri and Chair of the Mid-America Regional Council, which convened the Kansas City-area AV Policy Scrum.  “The Harvard Kennedy School’s initiative has put our region on an accelerated track to build upon the work of our Mid-America Regional Council in developing policy recommendations that prioritize public safety with 21st century mobility needs and with economic opportunities.”

Among the questions the AV Policy Scrum sessions have addressed are: 

  • How can public safety and security best be prioritized while still supporting robust AV deployment?
  • What new public value opportunities will AVs bring to cities and states, as well as to their citizens?
  • How can cities and states work with AV companies to ensure this technology provides equitable and accessible opportunities for all residents?
  • How can local and state officials best encourage a shared ride model for autonomous vehicles?
  • How can AVs best integrate with mass transit?
  • What kinds of priorities should automated transit vehicles receive?
  • What are the necessary information flows between AV fleet operators as well as with the public sector to ensure safe, reliable, and equitable operations as well as support other public interests?
  • What regulatory framework best support AV fleet operations on a regional basis?

The Taubman Center for State and Local Government’s Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative was established at the Harvard Kennedy School. The expansion of the AV Policy Scrum model to assist additional cities and states throughout the U.S. is being provided with the support of AARP, which is focused on self-driving vehicle technology as a possible solution to the mobility challenges of aging populations.

Read more about the Taubman Center for State and Local Government’s Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School.