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Paving The POLICY Road To Autonomous Vehicles


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Our signature fast-track activity to policy options: a policymaker’s answer to a design sprint or hackathon. Come with questions, leave with actionable options.




Our analysis of developments from the Autonomous Vehicles world from a public policy point of view.


Question Marks

Stay informed or get ahead with our featured AV literature selection from 5 key policy areas.


Self-driving cars, trucks, and other autonomous vehicles will fundamentally disrupt how policymakers need to think about urban planning, budgets, public transportation, and mobility in general in the coming years.

The Harvard Kennedy School Autonomous Vehicles Policy Initiative at the Taubman Center for State and Local Government (AVPI) aims to provide actionable analysis and practical help for the implementation of AVs to city, state, and federal governments. We consult to stakeholders both inside and outside of the United States.

Through research, teaching, and work with decision makers in administrations, with technologists and business leaders from AV companies and startups, and with other practicing professionals from the autonomous vehicles space, the initiative seeks to improve policymakers’ capacity to deal with a fast emerging technology. They find actionable policy and strategy options to create infrastructure that is livable for humans and AVs, and that helps to mitigate the social consequences of the AV revolution.


"From Infrastructure In Disrepair To Autonomous Vehicles Tech Center"

Guest Perspective by Shoshana Lew, Chief Operating Officer, Rhode Island Department of Transportation

Providence Rhode Island’s Woonasquatucket River Corridor was once at the forefront of transportation technology innovation — a flourishing manufacturing center with mills and a foundry and which, in the late 19thcentury, became home to one of the first cable tramways in New England, according to local historian Albert Claflin. But, after World War II, as industry left and factories shut down, the Corridor experienced a decline, the population dwindled, and eventually the streetcar left. This spring, innovative transit will return to the area with a pilot deployment of autonomous vehicle technology that is being implemented in a partnership between the Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) and the Michigan-based start-up “May Mobility,” drawing from dialogue with the Harvard Kennedy School’s Taubman Center for State and Local Government. Read more...


More "Perspectives"


  • "Reflections on Developing AV Policy for Buenos Aires"

Daniel Comeaux, an AVPI Research Assistant, shares his "lessons learned" from developing recommendations for how Buenos Aires should reduce competition between public transit and autonomous vehicles. Read more...

  • "A Warning Shot For AV Policy Action"

Cambridge citizens and city officials awoke last week to find electric scooters distributed in the city. No warning, no permission, it just happened. They are causing policymakers headaches, and foreshadow what is ahead for autonomous vehicles. Read more...

  • "A Disruption to the Disruption"

A tragic incident is a reminder to policy makers that AV technology is far from being perfected and testing protocols should be refined and better monitored.  Read more...


Our Research

Get into the discussion on our AVPI Blog

We analyze the latest global developments from the fast-moving Autonomous Vehicles realm from a policy point of view. 


Featured News

What we are reading:

A pair of recent articles in the New York Times featured the AVPI's own Professor Mark Fagan, including his thoughts on why policymakers should prioritize safety and security when testing AVs and how some of Elon Musk's recent comments could backfire with regulators.

Another U.S. state wants to become an AV hub, but policymakers are still reeling from recent events:

Meanwhile, the possible disruptions that AVs will bring for many sectors are engaging more and more researchers:

Finally, we recommend a blog post on our medium blog - an introduction by Professor Fagan, explaining who we are and what we would like to achieve here at the Kennedy School


We are proud to announce that we have now officially launched our new research center! 


Press release 1Press release 2


More News:


Kris Carter, Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics, represented the City of Boston shared the podium with Harvard Kennedy School’s Professor Mark Fagan to review the results of the Boston AV Policy Scrum with the members of the Massachusetts AV Working Group.

The Policy Scrum, co-hosted by the City of Boston and the Taubman Center for State and Local Government at HKS, focused on policy options to fostering shared ownership and shared rides for AVs. The following four specific issues were explored:

  1. What governance/regulatory structures should be put in place to result in shared vehicles? 
  2. How can AVs effectively integrate with mass transit?
  3. How shouldcurb access be designed and used at major transit hubs in the city?
  4. What incentives(carrots + sticks) should be adopted to promote shared rides?


These issues were tackled by more than 40 AV stakeholders from government, advocacy groups and the private sector using our 24-hour Policy Scum format, which was developed by Professor Fagan. 


Policy options for further consideration covered (1) guiding principles for policy development; (2) the use of transportation infrastructure; (3) pricing to incent shared rides; (4) requirements for equitable service across the city; (5) managing congestion; and (6) protocols for data sharing. More details include:

Ensure all future AV policy supports active mobility in alignment with Complete Streets principles and Imagine Boston 2030and Go Boston 2030 goals and priorities.

  • Dedicate more roads to high-occupancy vehicles (HOVs, such as buses) and design HOV corridors, including in transit deserts.
  • Phase in differential pricing to encourage high-occupancy vehicle use, while also taxing “zombie” and/or single-occupancy vehicles. Implement dynamic curb pricing aligned with lower rates of personal car ownership and more shared fleet access/usage.
  • Stipulate that TNCs with autonomous fleets must operate in all of Boston, including in underserved neighborhoods, with a fleet service map that aligns with the municipal map. Mandate wait-time and price parity standards across all neighborhoods.
  • Collaboratively collect data on transportation needs, use by income, trip type, and other metrics in order to make informed decisions about transit integration.


Boston is now using the insights from the Policy Scrum to set priorities for policy development and refine policy options.

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Mark Fagan

Lecturer in Public Policy