Travel Behavior Changes Among Users of Partially Automated Vehicles


Partially automated battery electric vehicles (BEVs) are being sold to and used by consumers. Estimates indicate that as of the end of 2019, there were over 700,000 Partially Automated Tesla Vehicles—the subject of this study—on the roads globally. Despite this, little research has been done to understand how they may be changing travel behavior. In this study, qualitative interviews with 36 users of Tesla BEVs with Autopilot were conducted. The goal of this was to understand how Autopilot is used, user experiences of the system, and whether the system has any impact on drivers’ travel behavior. The focus of the last of these aims was to determine whether Autopilot could cause or was causing an increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) among the study participants. Results from the interviews showed that partial automation leads to consumers travelling by car more and being more willing to drive in congested traffic. These changes are due to increased comfort, reduced stress, and increased relaxation due to the partial automation system, and because of the lower running costs of a BEV. The results also point to a need for further research of partially automated vehicles that are already on the market, as 11 of 17 reasons for increased VMT that have been identified in modeling studies of fully automated vehicles (not yet commercially available) applied to users of Autopilot

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