Current Funded Research

Transportation Technology & Society

Funding Source: UConn Provost’s Academic Plan Award

Transportation technologies allowing for self-driving vehicles are emerging rapidly, sparking considerable speculation about how they may revolutionize society. Academic inquiry on this topic is thus far limited, focusing primarily on the science and engineering of enabling technologies such as vehicle sensors. A community of scholars from various academic disciplines who understands the intricacies of the complex systems associated with Transportation Technology & Society (TTS) is urgently needed to examine this potentially disruptive dynamic. The overarching goal of this project is to create an interdisciplinary community of scholars who can collaborate on research and teaching in TTS and understand how to harness the Big Data associated with this emerging technology.

Perceptions about Autonomous Vehicles based on Waymo’s Testing in Arizona

Funding Source: UConn’s Scholarship Facilitation Fund

This study focuses on Waymo, a subsidiary of Google, which has been testing self-driving vehicles in Chandler, Arizona, since April 2017.  During this testing period, which was limited to selected customers, services have been gradually expanded.  Most recently, Waymo announced that it will begin a robotaxi service in Chandler and the neighboring municipalities of Tempe, Gilbert, and Mesa.  Not everyone welcomes the new technology. A recent NY Times article reported that people were trying to run AVs off the road, while others had attacked them with rocks and knives.  The research will contribute to an ongoing effort to better understand the broader impacts of transportation technologies on society.

Equity, Externalities & Public Policy: Understanding the Surprising and Oversized Use of Ridesourcing Services in Poorer Neighborhoods in NYC

Funding Source: CAMMSE

This project uses surveys, interviews, and spatial analysis of geocoded Twitter feeds about various companies providing ridesourcing to glean insights about trips in New York City’s Outer Boroughs, which have undergone explosive growth. We are especially interested in learning what has caused this rapid growth in trips originating in the outer boroughs, who is taking the trips, where they are going, and whether or not this represents additional travel or whether it is replacing trips already undertaken via different means. Our findings will provide insights about the implications of these ridesourcing trips for equity considerations, as well as externalities caused by any increased Vehicle Miles Travelled (VMT) that will be of interest to policy-makers. The mixed method spatiotemporal tools developed in this study will be applicable to a wide range of settings and illustrate the importance of contextual factors in evaluating the impacts of technologies that are disrupting the traditional landscape of transportation research and policy.

What do We Want from Autonomous Vehicles?

Funding Source: CAMMSE

This research will use the Transportation Indicator for Sustainable Places (TISP) previously developed by our research group as a framework for evaluating the potential outcomes of three different scenarios under which autonomous vehicles (AVs) could be deployed. The output of this initial deliverable will form the basis for thinking through the wide array of impacts that AVs may have on society, the economy, and the environment. The goal is to avoid repeating mistakes of the past in which people’s needs were subjugated by special interest groups who have a vested interest in championing the benefits of superior technology. Instead of passively responding to technological changes, society—and public agencies such as DOTs that serve society—will be better positioned to shape the outcomes of this ‘socio‐technological’ transition.

What do People Want from Autonomous Vehicles and How do Decision-Makers Treat that Information? A Pilot Study of Connecticut

Funding Source: Kettering Foundation

In this pilot study, a team of interdisciplinary researchers will collect data on people’s “hopes and fears” about Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) in two public forums. This feedback will be compiled in the form of a report which will be shared with legislators and members of a Task Force in charge of creating policy recommendations pertaining to Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) being allowed to operate on Connecticut roads. Decision-makers will then be interviewed by the research team to understand how citizen input is considered in the process of determining policies with respect to AVs.

SCC: Empowering Smart and Connecticut Communities through Programmable Community Microgrids

Funding Source: NSF # 1831811

The main objective of this project is to create smart programmable microgrids (SPMs). Our key innovation is to virtualize microgrid functions, making them software-defined and hardware-independent, so that converting distributed energy systems to community microgrids becomes affordable, autonomic, and secure. Dr. Atkinson-Palombo’s role in this project is to examine the social adoption of the technology.