How We Choose: Applying ‘Decision Science’ to Transportation Behaviors

Read the full story from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Can scientists understand human behavior enough to figure out what drives the choices you make? In fact, it’s called “decision science,” and it’s something that Anna Spurlock, a behavioral economist with Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab), specializes in.

Spurlock spearheads the WholeTraveler Transportation Behavior Study, a three-year project that has attempted to analyze why and when some people adopt certain technologies – such as electric vehicles, ride-sharing, ride-hailing (like Uber and Lyft), and online shopping – while others don’t.

The study is part of the SMART (Systems and Modeling for Accelerated Research in Transportation) Mobility consortium, which is a multiyear consortium of several national labs developed to further understand the energy implications and opportunities of advanced mobility technologies and services. The SMART Mobility Consortium consists of five pillars of research: Connected and Automated Vehicles, Mobility Decision Science, Multi-Modal Freight, Urban Science, and Advanced Fueling Infrastructure, and is funded by the Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) Vehicle Technologies Office (VTO) Energy Efficient Mobility Systems (EEMS) Program.

The WholeTraveler study started with an online survey in 2018 – over 1,000 San Francisco Bay Area residents responded. The survey included questions about car ownership, commute locations, demographics, personality traits, and a life-history calendar that looked at travel behaviors related to major life stages and events between the ages of 20 and 50. The survey results provided Berkeley Lab researchers with a treasure trove of data and was a major cornerstone of the Mobility Decision Science pillar of SMART Mobility.

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