Mobility Feature: Eva Kassens-Noor

Eva Kassens-Noor

Dr. Eva Kassens-Noor is paving the way for the future of sociomobility through her research in resilience, sustainability and large-scale urban planning projects triggered by global forces.

Currently an associate professor of Urban and Regional Planning in MSU’s School of Planning, Design and Construction and the Global Urban Studies Program, Dr. Kassens-Noor is also an adjunct associate professor in the MSU Department of Civil Engineering and of Geography, Environment and Spatial Sciences.

“In terms of autonomous vehicles (AVs) and artificial intelligence (AI), I look into how people perceive AVs,” Kassens-Noor said. “I look into whom it will benefit and whom will it disadvantage. More specifically, I focus on groups that have been historically disadvantaged, such as minorities, persons with disabilities and the elderly population.”

Due to her extensive social research, the practical applications of her work in the mobility field provides car makers, policy makers, engineers and planners the ability to better understand where the current perception of AVs are among differing populations.

“We now know that males and younger generations are more receptive to this idea of AVs than females and older generation,” Kassens-Noor said. “Additionally, we research these aspects of advertising. Do we call it self-driving or AV? How are those words perceived between these different groups?”

In order to make these types of conclusions, Dr. Kassens-Noor notes the benefits in building a unique data set of 1,500 people whom her team is able to survey face-to-face, and why it’s provided robust results as opposed to online surveys that typically only receive 20-25% agreement in participation.

“In our intercept survey, we achieved close to 90% agreement that people would like to participate. This provides wider breadth,” Kassens-Noor said. “We also have 40% of people with disabilities in our data set, which gets at the heart of sociomobility.”

Dr. Kassens-Noor notes the importance of giving a voice to disadvantaged population groups, especially as it pertains to the future of mobility.

When asked why mobility is a passion of hers, Dr. Kassens-Noor said, “We work and live in a state where the automobile has dominated for over a century. We’re now standing on the verge of a new transformation in mobility.”

She went onto explain how in order to take these next steps, we must allow everyone the means to obtain this transportation and promote accessibility to it among our diverse population

Additionally, Dr. Kassens-Noor discussed this current issue of how to decide which path AI or AVs will take in difficult driving situations.

For example, imagine an individual were to decide how they’d want their AV to drive, would it be programmed to choose the side of ethics that adheres to the driving standards and implications

of society, or by the individual’s morals? In other words, the car either learns from the person programming it or by what society deems best and safe.

These types of questions are at the helm of Dr. Kassens-Noor’s research. Not only that, but she discusses another challenge in the mobility parlor being the likelihood of future collaboration.

“Right now, you can import a car from a different country, but the moment you introduce AVs, you have to share a code and allow cars to communicate with each other and its infrastructure in order to safely drive on the roads. This will cause hard-set collaboration with manufactures,” Kassens-Noor said.

Once this issue is approached, another challenge that presents is this issue of cyber security. Dr. Kassens-Noor explains the likelihood of hacking once there is this large, connected cyber network of communicating AVs and the need to have solutions in place to prevent this potential breach of security.

Despite these current mobility challenges, Dr. Kassens-Noor shares what she believes makes MSU a leader in the mobility field.

“Ever since I came to MSU, I’ve been treated wonderfully as a colleague and as an equal. Overall, I’ve had a great experience, and it’s the strong collaboration between faculty and researchers that makes this place so unique,” she said.

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