WASHINGTON — Educating the public about automated vehicles is crucial to deploying advanced transportation technology on U.S. roads and highways, according to speakers at Mobility Talks International, held in Washington last year.
"The goal is to build a world-class transportation system that is multimodal, so cities can be built for people, not cars," said Lauren Belive, federal government relations manager for the ride-sharing service Lyft Inc.
Ms. Belive, like the other speakers in the panel titled "Spreading the Word: Building Public Knowledge and Trust of AVs," was a representative of a member organization of Partners for Automated Vehicle Education (PAVE), a coalition devoted to promoting public awareness about the benefits of AVs.
Spreading the word quickly and comprehensibly about AV technology is key, according to Robbie Diamond, founder, president and CEO of the organization Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE).
"It's important that we move with the speed of technology, not the speed of people," Mr. Diamond said. "The debate will be intense, and we have to gear up for that.
"With automated vehicles, there are 2 million disabled people who could get a job because they could commute to it," Mr. Diamond said. "There are 3,000 people who die on the roads every day around the world, whose lives would be saved."
AVs would be a boon to senior citizens, as long as they can be persuaded to trust and accept the technology, according to Anna Maria Chavez, executive vice president and chief growth officer for the National Coalition on Aging.
"By 2030, one person out of five will be over 65," Ms. Chavez said. "A 10-year-old girl today has a 50% chance of living to 109.
"Meanwhile, the infrastructure we have to deal with elderly people is quite antiquated," she said. "This is an issue we can no longer leave behind."
One of the biggest challenges in selling the public on AVs, according to Mr. Diamond, will be explaining why AVs are likely to be both shared and electric.
"There are a variety of reasons for this," he said. "But let's allow people to figure out how they want to use the technology."
Mr. Diamond also said that, with AVs, it's necessary to think beyond the current structure of individual vehicles and mass transit.
"Maybe the future of Metro is one-seat pods, rather than empty buses," he said. "The only people who want to save Metro are the One-Percenters who don't ride the Metro."