It’s the age of the AV -- autonomous vehicles -- and MSU and its campus are mastering mobility

Apr 1, 2019

New challenges and new opportunities will be created with the advent of self-driving commercial and consumer vehicles, Institute for Public Policy and Social Researchers concluded in the latest edition of IPPSR’s State of the State Podcast.


“We’re at the forefront,” says Shelia Cotten, IPPSR faculty affiliate and MSU foundation professor, during the podcast with IPPSR Acting Director Arnold Weinfeld and MSU economist Charles Ballard. Ballard’s also director of MSU’s State of the State Survey, a regular phone survey of Michigan opinions and attitudes.

The State of the State Podcast is a monthly broadcast produced with the help of WKAR studios.

Cotten’s in the lead of a number of mobility efforts, specializing on anticipating changes that self-driving vehicles will have on people, their work and their workplace during the next decade.

Research is underway, through the help of an IPPSR Michigan Applied Public Policy Research grant, exploring how Michigan may adapt and adopt new technologies in moving goods and people from one place to another.

One early finding: developing technologies will boost the demand for computer scientists and engineers who understand the new systems’ integrated complexities, Cotten says.

A “silver tsunami” is coming during the next 20 to 40 years as the population ages and older adults face technology’s pace, Cotten says. Her work, in the Department of Media and Information in MSU’s College of Communication Arts and Sciences, focuses on helping older adults cross the “digital divide.”

Early May will also bring a slate of practitioners, faculty and mobility leaders to campus to further the discussion that will travel from transportation to upward career and income mobility, Weinfeld adds. SocioMobility, the social side of mobility, takes place Friday, May 17. Its hosted by the MSU Center for Business and Social Analytics in cooperation with IPPSR and MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction.

Adding fuel to the AV discussion, Arnold and Charley discuss income inequality, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s pitch for an increased gasoline tax to pay for road repairs, and the opportunities and jobs that new forms of mobility, social and transit, are likely to create.

“There are going to be new jobs created,” says Weinfeld. “We don’t even know what they are now.”

IPPSR combines policy education, political leadership training and survey research in MSU’s College of Social Science. IPPSR’s home to the Michigan Political Leadership Program, Public Policy Forums Series, Office for Survey Research and a number of research datasets and affiliated faculty members.

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