Diagnosing Sharing Anxiety

Sammanfattning: Numerous studies indicate that the potential of autonomous vehicles (AVs) to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, reduce traffic congestion, and increase mobility access can only be fully realized through fleets of vehicles being used for shared rides, also known as dynamic ridepooling. This has the potential for transforming the public transport industry, as well as how transportation functions in urban and rural contexts. In order for shared AVs (SAVs) to be a feasible service, users need to be willing to share a driverless space with strangers. However, most of the research in the field has focused on traffic impact studies or in technological acceptance, not social acceptance of the driverless space an AV represents. In contemporary dynamic ridepooling or on-demand transport, users are often motivated through lower fares to share their ride in a human-driven vehicle, yet pooled rides are not a given service by many companies. Understanding how potential users feel about sharing a driverless space with strangers, is critical in order to develop strategies for increasing acceptance and adoption of a new mobility behavior, especially when planning for shared autonomous transport. What are the factors that would motivate users to make this choice? If given the option of a driverless vehicle, would users of these services be motivated by the same factors? That is what Study 1 of this licentiate thesis sought to answer. Using qualitative research methods, the study comprised of four focus groups held in New South Wales, Australia, with active users of either the trialled on-demand transport service or commercial ridepooling. Through thematic analysis of the focus group conversations, confirmed factors of cost, comfort, convenience, safety, community culture, and trust in authority emerged. However, the results showed that when presented with driverless scenarios, the focus group participants’ willingness-to-share dropped significantly, due to strong concerns about the unknown behaviour of their co-passengers. This revealed ”sharing anxiety” in even extremely motivated users of dynamic ridepooling, and a potential barrier to the deployment of SAVs. Thus Study 2 turned to transportation stakeholders in New South Wales, to understand their perspectives on how to mitigate this problem. Study 2 is a policy-focused investigation with experts from the state’s transport authority, autonomous vehicle operators, public transport operators, and academics. Again, qualitative methods were used, this time one-on-one interviews. The results revealed a relative lack of awareness about the existence and impact of sharing anxiety, which in turn raises concerns about the preparedness of governments and transport operators to introduce SAV services. The combined confirmation of sharing anxiety as a complex barrier, as well as the lack of awareness from transportation stakeholders, indicates a potential challenge to the widespread adoption of SAVs and shared autonomous public transport (SAPT), one that would require building strategies for increasing willingness-to-share at the community or societal level. This licentiate begins the foundational work towards the development of a descriptive and prescriptive framework, the Societal Readiness Index for Shared Autonomy.