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"A New Upside to Driverless Cars", "Nature Makes Humans Healthier", "Divorce and Work"

A New Upside to Driverless Cars

Experts say the time for fully automated vehicles (also known as AVs and driverless cars) may come sooner than we think.

A new study led by professors at the College of Science and Engineering and the Hubert H. Humphrey School of Public Affairs examined how AV networks could work. They say if we don’t come up with thoughtful plans for how to implement them into our transportation networks, AVs could increase traffic congestion, sideline public transportation, and further increase social inequities. 

One potential solution: shared driverless cars (also known as shared autonomous vehicles or SAVs).

Using a hypothetical SAV system modeled on Minneapolis and St. Paul, researchers identified issues for policymakers, planners, and mobility on-demand companies to address to create an integrated system. The study determined that SAV networks are feasible and could ease stresses on public transportation by providing cost-effective alternatives to areas with low ridership routes, including the suburbs. 

“Well-designed communities employing pools of SAVs of varying sizes with efficient connections to high-quality public transit could bring about far-reaching societal change—providing inexpensive mobility services to all people, building stronger family and community ties, and boosting economic productivity and equity by removing mobility as a constraint,” says co-principal investigator Yingling Fan, a professor in the Humphrey School. 

This study was first published on May 10, 2022 in Transportation Research Record

Nature Makes Humans Healthier

Photo credit: Boogich/iStock

It’s common sense that a healthier planet makes for happier humans. Now, important research from a global team of experts, including scientists from the
U of M’s Institute on the Environment, quantifies how nature conservation correlates with human wellbeing on both local and global levels, from providing food and safe drinking water to mental well-being.

Researchers found that conserving 30 percent of the Earth’s land and 24 percent of coastal waters would sustain 90 percent of nature’s influence on people’s well-being. 

Researchers also mapped key ecosystems that contribute to the well-being of people across the globe, from Congo Basin forests to the Appalachian Mountains to the Amazon and headwaters of the Yangtze and Mekong Rivers. Mapping and measuring these areas will help conservationists make decisions about which projects to prioritize. Development, conservation, and mitigation goals can work hand in hand.

“All people on the planet benefit from nature,” says study lead author Becky Chaplin-Kramer, principal research scientist at the U of M. “What is striking is just how many benefit from a relatively modest proportion of our total global land area.” 

This research was first published on November 28, 2022 in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Divorce and Work

In the U.S., more than 40 percent of first marriages end in divorce. But while the effects of divorce have been extensively studied, the impact of divorce on a person’s work has not gotten much attention.

Researchers at the U of M’s Carlson School of Management addressed that with two separate studies. In the first, researchers surveyed more than 500 people who were married or had lived together and were in the process of divorcing, or who had gotten divorced within the past five years. While on average respondents reported divorce stress negatively impacted their health, job performance, and job satisfaction, 39 percent said divorce actually had a positive impact on their work.

The second study, which surveyed 200 participants over a year, examined the extent to which divorce-related grief impacted a person’s job. They found the end of a higher-quality marriage and the expectation of less financial stability post divorce were both tied to negative impacts at work. Parents going through divorce experienced less grief and reported fewer negative impacts at work than those divorcing without children. Engagement at work, job performance, and health improved from when they were in the divorce process to a year later. 

Researchers say understanding the impacts of divorce on work will help managers and others better support staff during these life transitions.

These studies were first published on October 17, 2022 in Personnel Psychology

Huge thanks to the team at University Public Relations for their help with these briefs.

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