Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) are generating high-profile policy interest due to the potential for ‘disruptive’ influence on transport systems and wider society. The paper places AV technology in a historical context, through an annotated timeline of development to date. Prospects for further technological development and market adoption are then examined through an analysis informed by theories of socio-technical change (multi-level perspective; technology acceptance model); ii.) the application of these theoretical perspectives to understanding historic transport system transitions and; iii.) a review of AV representation within professional bodies and AV public perception studies.
This review is used to identify and justify two competing but plausible operating scenarios for AVs. The first sees AVs as supporting ‘business-as-usual’, with road transport remaining an essentially private ‘owner-user’ set of practices, with more cars and traffic resulting from the removal of constraints on who can use vehicles and when. The other presents AVs as a key element in achieving ‘collective efficiency’ in the use of transport assets, with different and emerging ownership and use models.