LEVITATE partner in the spotlight: interview with Rune Elvik, TØI

The Institute of Transport Economics (TØI) is a national institution for transport research and development. It was set up in 1958, and in 1986 the TOI became a private, independent research foundation. Rune Elvik is senior research officer at TØI. He has obtained four doctoral degrees in the fields of political science, philosophy and road safety. Rune Elvik is known for his work on TØI’s Traffic Safety Handbook that has been published in five languages and is a benchmark on current knowledge about the effect of road safety measures. 

What is your key question on the impact connected and automated transport systems will have?
Rune Elvik: Based on my background, I feel best qualified to deal with road safety impacts, but in Levitate we aim to cover all societal impacts of CATs.

How do you contribute to LEVITATE?
Rune Elvik: Our job in LEVITATE is to develop methods for forecasting impacts of connected and automated vehicles. We need the contributions of all partners to be able to do so. At a later stage, we will deal with cost-benefit analyses, which our institute has a long experience in doing.

Human error is made responsible for the vast majority of road crashes. Will full automation of vehicles make road traffic safer than ever by eliminating the human factor?
Rune Elvik: Ah, well, you will not eliminate the human factor. You will simply transfer it to a different arena. The future errors will be software and hardware errors in the computers running the vehicles. But yes. These errors are likely to be few and yes, I do think road safety will be improved.

Do you expect to witness a highly automated road transport system in your lifetime, and how should that look like?
Rune Elvik: I don’t know. We already see small automated buses. There is one running in the city of Oslo. I probably ought to take a trip with it soon. But I think there is a long way to go before fully automated passenger cars can be used everywhere. Prototypes, on the other hand, will emerge very quickly, I think.

How I wish it will be? Well, obviously, free of accidents and free of pollution. Get rid of all the bad things associated with traffic.