Corporate ownership of automated vehicles: discussing potential negative externalities

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18 Scopus citations


This paper proposes a new angle on the relationship between ownership models of automated vehicles and implications for travel. Specifically, the paper speculates on the potential negative externalities of corporate ownership. It argues that corporate ownership may prolong trips in order to maximise returns on capital and to take advantage of passengers’ in-vehicle attention. Corporate owners are expected to generate revenue from providing passengers with personalised content, by providing car-immersive entertainment services and prolonging trips. The paper argues that corporate owners will have important stakes in the “attention economy”: a fast-growing industry with an explicit interest in harvesting persons’ attention through digital content, and repurposing it for financial gain. One of the consequences of corporate ownership introducing such incentives into transport schemes is that congestion may worsen, because the corporate owner can generate potential revenue from prolonging travel time. This would work against the goals of reducing travel time for passengers and engendering more sustainable transport. In addition, there may be other negative externalities from corporate ownership with stakes in the attention economy: a reduction in positive utility due to reduction in the ability to convert travel time to productive time; a reduction in human well-being, and widening of social injustice. Given that the attention economy is in the business of capturing persons' attention, this will make it difficult to convert travel time into productive time, since it will become harder for the passenger to disengage from tailored digital targeting. In addition, in-vehicle experience, combined with the hold that the attention economy will have on passengers, reduces the potential of developing and exercising our human capacities, which is crucial for well-being. Finally, subscription plans that will offer the ability to opt-out from personalised targeting may create social injustice insofar as some people will be able to afford opting-out, while others will not. The upshot is that corporate interests need to be taken into account in assessing the implications of automated vehicles on travel, and regulatory mechanisms to anticipate and correct for these externalities are timely.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-113
Number of pages19
JournalTransport Reviews
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2 Jan 2020


  • automated vehicle
  • autonomous vehicle
  • Car-sharing
  • corporate ownership
  • injustice
  • positive utility
  • well-being

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Transportation


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