Societal-scale Impact of Autonomy

Once autonomy becomes prevalent, and robots are integrated into the fabric of life, the collective impact of autonomy will be at a societal-scale. We study the societal-scale impact of autonomy once it is deployed at a large scale. In particular, we develop control and management algorithms which can guarantee overall societal-scale benefits from autonomy adoption. We study the collective impact of autonomous systems such as autonomous cars and drones on transportation systems. As autonomous cars and drones are becoming tangible technologies, there is an opportunity to exploit multilateral societal benefits from the adoption of autonomy to achieve autonomous urbanism. We study different aspects of how autonomy can be deployed in future cities such that overall societal benefits are attained. Enormous societal benefits can be achieved if autonomous cars act altruistically rather than selfishly. Furthermore, we are interested in studying novel forms of incentive mechanisms that autonomy can provide for affecting humans’ choices in a transportation network for further efficiency of transportation systems.

Altruistic Autonomy

In a network with mixed vehicle autonomy, autonomous cars can be controlled altruistically, such that when human-driven cars react selfishly to the actions of autonomous vehicles, the overall societal-scale performance of the system is improved. For instance, autonomous vehicles can select their lanes such that when human-driven cars select their lanes selfishly, the overall traffic is smoother. Or, for instance, since travelers that are served by autonomous cars will not drive, they may embrace longer routes. Consequently, autonomous cars can be routed such that the network mobility is increased. We are interested in developing control algorithms for altruistic utilization of autonomous cars in order to improve the overall network mobility.

Reshaping Humans’ Choices

Even if all autonomous systems act altruistically, still, humans are an inseparable part of cities. However, humans are not actuators to follow the commands that a central authority encodes, they need incentive/disincentives for changing their behavior. For instance, a traveler served by an autonomous car may not desire the altruistic route choice of her autonomous car unless appropriate incentives are provided. We believe that a key component required for the efficient operation of transportation system is to provide the right incentives/disincentives for humans. We believe that autonomous cars will allow for more subtle forms of incentive mechanisms which can be leveraged for better efficiency of transportation systems. We are interested in studying the impact of such subtle forms of mechanisms to achieve further efficiency of transportation systems.