Accelerating the Adoption of Disruptive Technologies: The Impact of COVID-19 on Intention to Use Self-Driving Vehicles
One of the most notable global transportation trends is the accelerated pace of development in vehicle automation technologies. Uncertainty surrounds the future of automated mobility as there is no clear consensus on potential adoption patterns, ownership versus shared use status and travel impacts. Adding to this uncertainty is the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic that has triggered profound changes in mobility behaviors as well as accelerated the adoption of new technologies at an unprecedented rate. This study examines the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on willingness to adopt the emerging new technology of self-driving vehicles. Using data from a survey disseminated in June 2020 to 700 respondents in contiguous United States, we perform a difference-in-difference regression to analyze the shift in willingness to use autonomous vehicles as part of a shared fleet before and during the pandemic. The results reveal that the COVID-19 pandemic has a positive and highly significant impact on consideration of autonomous vehicles. This shift is present regardless of techsavviness, gender or political views. Individuals who are younger, left-leaning and frequent users of shared modes of travel are expected to become more likely to use autonomous vehicles once offered. Understanding the effects of these attributes on the increase in consideration of AVs is important for policy making, as these effects provide a guide to predicting adoption of autonomous vehicles - once available - and to identify segments of the population likely to be more resistant to adopting AVs.