NSF Funded Autonomous Vehicle Research Project Announces Stakeholder Advisory Board

Researchers from the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, College of Engineering, and College of Social Science Join with Industry Experts to Further Study Impacts of Autonomous Vehicles on the Workforce

A Michigan State University research team received a $2.49 million grant from the National Science Foundation to conduct a four-year research study examining the impacts of autonomous vehicles on the future workforce.

Researchers will aid understanding of the workforce transitions of the U.S. labor force into the era of automated vehicles. Led by Principal Investigator Shelia Cotten, Ph.D., professor in MSU’s Department of Media and Information and a leading expert in studying the use and impacts of emerging technologies, the research team is using a convergent approach, drawing from organizational psychology, economics, sociology, geography, technology, and transportation engineering to analyze the effects of automated vehicles, or AVs, on the workforce with a focus on taxi, ride hailing, and long distance and freight trucking industries.

The team includes MSU researchers from Geography (Elizabeth Mack, Ph.D.), Psychology (Chu Hsiang “Daisy” Chang, Ph.D. and J. Kevin Ford, Ph.D.), Engineering (John Verboncoeur, Ph.D. and Peter Savolainen, Ph.D.), the Center for Economic Analysis (Steven Miller, Ph.D.), and Journalism (Troy Hale, M.A.). Drivers who work with automated vehicles may experience changes in pay and training requirements. The transition will also have an impact on organizations, living standards, and the well-being of the workforce.

Stakeholder Advisory Board

The interdisciplinary team announced their Stakeholder Advisory Board, comprised of industry, government, and academic experts who will help guide the study.

Members of the Stakeholder Advisory Board include:

  • Michael Poyma - Employment Specialist, Vocational Rehabilitation & Employment, US Department of Veterans Affairs
  • Dawn Thompson - Director of Strategy & Special Programs, American Center for Mobility
  • Alan Lecz - Director, Advanced Transportation Center, Washtenaw Community College
  • Britany Affolter-Caine - Executive Director, Michigan’s University Research Corridor
  • Michelle Wein - Senior Director for Strategies & Partnerships, Workforce Intelligence Network
  • Paul C. Ajegba – Director, Michigan Department of Transportation
  • Kathryn Branson - Executive Director, Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity
  • Loni Manhanta – VP of Policy Development & Research, Lyft
  • Grace Chau – Head of Marketing and Senior Director for Self-Driving, Lyft
  • Mickey Blashfield – President & CEO, Michigan Trucking Association

“It is an honor to represent the Partnership for Transportation Innovation and Opportunity as we work with Dr. Cotten, the MSU team, and the stakeholder advisory board to study the impacts of autonomous vehicles on the workforce,” said Kathryn Branson, Executive Director of PTIO. “Preparing workers for AV technology requires evidence-based policies and programs that reflect a comprehensive understanding of AVs and the US labor market – which is contingent upon a solid foundation of research. As our mission is to identify solutions that prepare workers for AVs and mitigate any disruption, PTIO is grateful to be a part of this study.

The advisory board will also mobilize and help other organizations participate in focus groups, surveys, and interviews that form an integral part of this study’s research methods.

“We have a stellar group of leaders serving on our Stakeholder Advisory Board – representing academia, trucking, ride hailing, the Department of Transportation, Veterans Affairs, and workforce-focused organizations. The members will help guide the project to ensure that we have appropriate scope, outreach, and impact, to help prepare the current and future workforce for the era of automated vehicles,” said Shelia Cotten, principal investigator for the NSF WEAVE project.

For further information regarding this project, contact Dr. Shelia Cotten at cotten@msu.edu or 517-353-6336.

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