Physics major Isabel Binamira (C'18) presented a poster about her research on the impact of autonomous vehicles (AV) at the 2018 Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board. Isabel's research asks the question: What if AVs are available, or more useful, in some areas than in others? This question has become timely as several companies have announced urban-centric, on-demand trials of AVs. Isabel's research develops a framework that translates where AVs operate into what those impacts would be. Applying that framework to a world in which AVs are mainly used for short trips in urban areas, Isabel's research found that there would an increase in urbanization, the number of vehicles privately owned in the U.S. would decrease by over 50 million, and, even as travel increased by over 10 percent because of the ease of travel in an AV, the use of electric vehicles as AVs would reduce annual gasoline consumption by 17 billion gallons.
Isabel carried out this work as an intern at Securing America's Future Energy (SAFE), a nonpartisan organization dedicated to reducing U.S. reliance on oil. Isabel worked with Dr. Amitai Bin-Nun, who leads AV research and advocacy at SAFE, and she is a co-author of an article currently under review at a peer-reviewed journal. "Isabel was an enormous asset to SAFE and her research findings are a significant contribution to the field," said Dr. Bin-Nun. "She thinks clearly and rigorously, and deftly applied the physicist skillset to a novel question on AVs. Everyone at SAFE enjoyed working with her, and we are very appreciative for this opportunity to collaborate with the Georgetown Physics Department."
The Transportation Research Board is a program unit of the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine, and its annual meeting is the largest transportation research conference in the world, with more than 13,000 attendees in 2018.