Blumenauer introduces bill to study the impact of autonomous vehicles

On January 21, 2021 Congressman Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) reintroduced a bill to study community-wide influences of autonomous vehicles. The Preparing Localities for an Autonomous and Connected Environment (PLACE) Act would create a federally funded clearinghouse to examine the secondary influences of autonomous vehicles and new mobility.  New mobility includes innovations such as rideshare, car-share, microtransit, bike-share, and scooter-share. 

The PLACE Act would create a clearinghouse to be housed at a higher education institution. These facilities would be required to collect, conduct, and fund research to help understand how autonomous vehicles and new mobility can influence land use, real estate, transportation, municipal budgets, urban design, the environment, and social equity. The proposed clearinghouse is funded at $2 million annually and would be chosen by the Secretary of Transportation within 180 days of enactment.

The Urbanism Next Center at the University of Oregon does leading research well aligned with these topics and is well positioned to compete for the national clearinghouse.  Urbanism Next has been building a body of work over the last five years around AV and new mobility impacts, works with public and private sector partners around the globe on these topics, and has been a leader in developing this area of research through its reports, yearly conference, and their NEXUS web-based resource. 

Even if housed elsewhere, the clearinghouse would speed the dissemination of research by programs like the Urbanism Next Center.

Last Congress, the PLACE Act was included in Section 5303 of the Moving Forward Act, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on July 1, 2020. The Moving Forward Act passed with leadership from Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-OR), chair of the US House Transportation & Infrastructure Committee.

In a 2019 press release on the bill, Congressman Blumenauer remarked that “done right, autonomous vehicles can increase mobility, improve social equity, and solve some of the country’s most vexing problems. Done wrong, we may repeat the mistakes of the past. The PLACE Act will allow us to have the research at our disposal to create more livable communities for all.”

Follow the PLACE Act as it moves through the current Congress here.