Holding the keys to health? A scoping study of the population health impacts of automated vehicles

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Abstract

Background: Automated Vehicles (AVs) are central to the new mobility paradigm that promises to transform transportation systems and cities across the globe. To date, much of the research on AVs has focused on technological advancements with little emphasis on how this emerging technology will impact population-level health. This scoping study examines the potential health impacts of AVs based on the existing literature. Methods: Using Arksey and O'Malley's scoping protocol, we searched academic and 'grey' literature to anticipate the effects of AVs on human health. Results: Our search captured 43 information sources that discussed a least one of the five thematic areas related to health. The bulk of the evidence is related to road safety (n = 37), followed by a relatively equal distribution between social equity (n = 24), environment (n = 22), lifestyle (n = 20), and built environment (n = 18) themes. There is general agreement that AVs will improve road safety overall, thus reducing injuries and fatalities from human errors in operating motorized vehicles. However, the relationships with air quality, physical activity, and stress, among other health factors may be more complex. The broader health implications of AVs will be dependent on how the technology is adopted in various transportation systems. Regulatory action will be a significant determinant of how AVs could affect health, as well as how AVs influence social and environmental determinants of health. Conclusion: To support researchers and practitioners considering the health implications of AVs, we provide a conceptual map of the direct and indirect linkages between AV use and health outcomes. It is important that stakeholders, including public health agencies work to ensure that population health outcomes and equitable distribution of health impacts are priority considerations as regulators develop their response to AVs. We recommend that public health and transportation officials actively monitor trends in AV introduction and adoption, regulators focus on protecting human health and safety in AV implementation, and researchers work to expand the body of evidence surrounding AVs and population health.

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Dean, J., Wray, A. J., Braun, L., Casello, J. M., McCallum, L., & Gower, S. (2019). Holding the keys to health? A scoping study of the population health impacts of automated vehicles. BMC Public Health, 19(1). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-019-7580-9

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