Transporting Children in Autonomous Vehicles: An Exploratory Study

Patrice D. Tremoulet, Thomas Seacrist, Chelsea Ward McIntosh, Helen Loeb, Anna DiPietro, Sophia Tushak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

27 Scopus citations


Objective: Identify factors that impact parents’ decisions about allowing an unaccompanied child to ride in an autonomous vehicle (AV). Background: AVs are being tested in several U.S. cities and on highways in multiple states. Meanwhile, suburban parents are using ridesharing services to shuttle children from school to extracurricular activities. Parents may soon be able to hire AVs to transport children. Method: Nineteen parents of 8- to 16-year-old children, and some of their children, rode in a driving simulator in autonomous mode, then were interviewed. Parents also participated in focus groups. Topics included minimum age for solo child passengers, types of trips unaccompanied children might take, and vehicle features needed to support child passengers. Results: Parents would require two-way audio communication and prefer video feeds of vehicle interiors, seatbelt checks, automatic locking, secure passenger identification, and remote access to vehicle information. Parents cited convenience as the greatest benefit and fear that AVs could not protect passengers during unplanned trip interruptions as their greatest concern. Conclusion: Manufacturers have an opportunity to design family-friendly AVs from the outset, rather than retrofit them to be safe for child passengers. More research, especially usability studies where families interact with technology prototypes, is needed to understand how AV design impacts child passengers. Application: Potential applications of this research include not only designing vehicles that can be used to safely transport children, seniors who no longer drive, and individuals with disabilities but also developing regulations, policies, and societal infrastructure to support safe child transport via AVs.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)278-287
Number of pages10
JournalHuman Factors
Issue number2
StatePublished - Mar 1 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Applied Psychology
  • Behavioral Neuroscience


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