Governance and Adaptive Regulation of Transformational Technologies in Transportation (2017-2018)


Emerging technologies such as autonomous vehicles and three dimensional printing offer extraordinary promise to revolutionize the transportation sector. Autonomous vehicles may usher in an era where people no longer own their own cars, but can call for a car whenever needed. Self-driving cars may reduce accidents, energy use and transportation time, and may increase personal productivity. 3D printing may enable a shift away from an economy where goods are produced at a facility and transported by ship, rail or truck to consumers or assemblers, to one where consumer goods and parts can be manufactured on demand when and where needed.

But these new technologies may also introduce risks, such as network failures or hacking that disrupt autonomous vehicles, and the use of 3D printing to make weapons. These risks will need to be managed and regulated despite the fact that the benefits and risks may be difficult to discern at early stages of innovation, and more thorough understanding of those risks will evolve over time. As a result, whereas traditional regulation is often static, policies in these new domains need to be adaptive—evolving over time in response to new information on risks and benefits.

Project Description

This Bass Connections project’s goal is to develop an approach to regulatory design and institutional updating, including model regulatory language, for both autonomous cars and 3D printing. The approach will be based on expertise on these technologies and analysis of how different regulatory options affect deployment of the technologies and learning about the emerging risks, benefits, costs and distribution of these technologies. The objective of this analysis is to inform decisions about regulating these emerging technologies, and to develop better approaches for adaptive regulation of emerging technologies in general.

On the analysis side, the project team will engage in activities such as understanding, defining and classifying risks posed by new technologies as well as interactions of those risks with existing risks; development of scenarios for technology development and deployment; development of possible regulatory options that are consistent with existing legal frameworks; modeling the benefits, costs and distributional impacts of these different regulatory options; and evaluating ethical differences in the outcomes from different regulatory options.

On the engagement side, the team will interact with key regulatory officials, particularly at the Department of Transportation, as well as leaders in industry and civil society.

Anticipated Outcomes

Policy report with recommendations on model regulatory design and language to promote adaptive regulation for both autonomous vehicles and 3D printing (report will be based on modeling and analysis of alternative regulatory structures on deployment, risks, benefits, costs and distribution of those outcomes); two or more peer-reviewed publications with student and faculty coauthors; website containing final policy briefs as well as technical reports on the analysis.


Spring 2017 – Spring 2018

  • Spring 2017: Adaptive Regulation Project Symposium in May; selected students required to attend
  • Fall 2017: Introductory lectures, sub-team formation, team charters, team building; trip to meet with regulators, and industry and civil society groups over fall break; refine research questions, identify data models, meet with industry and regulatory leaders as needed
  • Spring 2018: Research and writing, meet with industry and regulatory leaders as needed; poster presentation, full report, policy briefs, website

This Team in the News

Local Research Helps Make Driverless Cars a Reality

New Innovation Space Opens in Gross Hall

New Book Edited by Duke Scholars Examines How Crises (Including Oil Spills and Nuclear Accidents) Reshape Regulation

Exploring the Impact of Autonomous Vehicle Legislation

Energy Student Profile: Leah Louis-Prescott (MEM ’18)

The Brief Breakdown, Episode 1: DOT Federal Automated Vehicle Policy (Part 1)

Faculty/Staff Team Members

Lori Bennear, Nicholas School of the Environment-Environmental Sciences and Policy*
Michael Clamann, Pratt School of Engineering-Mechanical Engineering & Materials Science*
Jonathan Wiener, Duke Law*

Graduate Team Members

Cassandra Carley, Computer Science-PHD
Adam Fischer, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
Peter Ganz, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
Leah Louis-Prescott, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
Soli Shin, Master of Environmental Management, Energy and Environment
Edward Zhu, Electrical/Computer Engg-PHD

Undergraduate Team Members

Neel Bakshi, Mechanical Engineering (BSE)
Mary Coyne, Public Policy Studies (AB)
Jared Katzen, Economics (BS), Environmental Sci/Policy (AB2)
Vishnu Ramachandran, Computer Science (AB), Philosophy (AB2)
Sarah Sibley, Political Science (AB), Computer Science (AB2)
Sophie Tan, Political Science (AB), Economics (AB2)

* denotes team leader