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New Project: Exploring Driverless, Electric Paratransit Systems for Rural Areas

A Feasibility Study of a Driverless, Electric Para-Transit System in Rural Areas

PI: Yiyi Wang

Paratransit systems can improve transportation access for disabled, elderly, and other populations that don’t drive or own a personal vehicle; however, in rural areas, providing these services to small populations over long distances can be cost-prohibitive. This project will conduct a feasibility study on a pilot paratransit system operated by driverless, electric vans that connect rural towns. Three research questions will be explored:

• What is likely to be the benefit/cost ratio of an automated paratransit system, compared to that of existing rural transit systems?

• What are community perceptions and attitudes toward autonomous systems in rural areas?

• What are the barriers or incentives of providing a smart, electrical paratransit system in rural areas?

The answers to these questions will help strategically plan smart infrastructure for the rural poor and elderly to improve their quality of life while reducing social and environmental costs.  Specifically, it will investigate whether the deployment of autonomous, electrical vans can accommodate unmet transportation needs in rural areas.

This project will be conducted by the Small Urban, Rural, and Tribal Center on Mobility, a federally-authorized University Transportation Center housed at WTI.  The research will be led by Principal Investigators Yiyi Wang, Mike Wittie, and Ahmed Al-Kaisy.  Updates on the project will be available on the WTI website project page.