Safe-D: Safety through Disruption

Exploring the Safety Impacts of the Older Population’s Access to Automated Vehicles and Telemedicine: A Real-World Experiment in Small and Rural Communities (ENDEAVRide)


As of 2021, there were 18,696 small towns in the US with a population of less than 50,000. These communities typically have a low population density, few public transport services, and limited accessibility to daily services. This can pose significant challenges for residents trying to fulfill essential travel needs and access healthcare. Autonomous vehicles (AVs) have the potential to provide a convenient and safe way to get around without requiring human drivers, making them a promising transportation solution for these small towns. AV technology can become a first-line mobility option for people who are unable to drive, such as older adults and those with disabilities, while also reducing the cost of transportation for both individuals with special needs and municipalities. The report includes our research findings on 1) how residents in small towns perceive AV, including both positive and negative aspects; 2) the impacts of ENDEAVRide—a novel “Transport + Telemedicine 2-in-1” microtransit service delivered on a self-driving van in central Texas—on older adults’ travel and quality of life; and 3) the potential safety implications of AVs in small towns. This report will help municipal leaders, transportation professionals, and researchers gain a better understanding of how AV deployment can serve small towns.

Project Highlights

  • This project successfully evaluated the impacts of an innovative “Transport + Telemedicine 2-in-1” microtransit service, delivered on a self-driving van, on the travel and quality of life of older adults.
  • The project explored the perceptions of small-town residents towards autonomous vehicles and examined safety implications for these vehicles in small towns.
  • The project’s outcomes provide valuable insights for municipal leaders, transportation professionals, and researchers to better understand the potential benefits of deploying autonomous vehicles for small towns.

Final Report

05-109 Final Report

EWD & T2 Products

ENDEAVRide site can be found here.

Sprott, W. (2022). Microtransit in Small Cities: Nolanville, TX. Master’s Professional Paper. Texas A&M University.

Li, M. (2023). Older Adults’ Demand for Autonomous Public Transit: A Case Study in Nolanville, Texas. Master’s Professional Paper. Texas A&M University.

Usman, M. (2024). A Geographical Comparison of Autonomous Vehicles and Their Societal Impacts: Texas Perspective. Doctoral Dissertation expected to be completed in 2024.

Course Module: Ory, M., Usman, M., Li, W., Roscom, K., & Dadashova, B. “Autonomous Vehicles for Small Towns”. Graduate Lecture for Transportation, Population Health and Aging.

Course Module on “Small Towns and Big Dreams: ENDEAVR Interdisciplinary Training”.

A research/policy briefing based on study findings available here.

Presentations to community members and stakeholders regarding the issues of transportation and telemedicine in small rural communities. Presentation available here.

Student Impact Statement(pdf): Five graduate students from Texas A&M Universities Department of Landscape Architecture and Urban Planning received funding under this project (Wesley Sprott, Muyang Li, Andong, Chen, Jiahe Bian, and Muhammad Usman). This file contains a statement by three of these students as to the impact this project had on education and workforce development.


Wei, L., Dadashova, B., Usman, M. and Roscom, K., (2023, May 4). Autonomous Vehicles for Small Towns: System, Service, and Safety from Research to Practice. Webinar SafeD Virtual Webinar is available here. PDF of PowerPoint slides from Webinar available here.

Bian, J. Li, W., Chen, A.,Usman, M.,Ye, X., Li, X., Dadashova, B., Lee, C., and Ory, M.(2023). Smartphone Usage and Daily Trips: An Empirical Study of Small and Rural Communities in Texas. Presented at the 102nd Annual Meeting of the Transportation Research Board, Washington D.C. January 2023.

Li, W., Roscom, K., Chen, A., Hu, Z., Briggs, C., Escajeda, K., Bian, J., Lam, M., Masterson, J., Ory, M., Sprout, W., and Usman, M. (2022). Transport +Telemedicine for Small, Rural Communities: Killing Two Birds with One Stone. Presented at the American Planning Association Texas Chapter Annual Conference, October 2022, El Paso, Texas.

Thapa, J., Li, W., and Roberts, A. (2022). Addressing Rural Challenges with Innovative Technological Strategies. Presented at the American Planning Association National Annual Conference, May 2022, Virtual.

Ye, X., Li, S., Du, J., & Li, W. (2023). Design and Implementation of a Human-Centered, Interactive Transportation Dashboard for Small Towns through Heterogeneous Spatial Data Integration, on Computational Urban Planning and Urban Management (CUPUM). Proceedings of the 18th International Conference.

Li, W. (2023). “How to Futureproof Small Towns with Innovation,” TED Talk, March 2023. Available here.

Research Investigators (PI*)

Wei Li (TTI/TAMU)*
Bahar Dadashova (TTI/TAMU)
Xinyue Ye (TTI/TAMU)
Xiao Li (TTI/TAMU)
Marcia Ory (TTI/TAMU)
Chanam Lee (TTI/TAMU)
Kiju Lee (TTI/TAMU)
Sivakumar Rathinam (TTI/TAMU)
Muhammad Usman (Student-TTI/TAMU)

Project Information

Start Date: 2020-01-09
End Date: 2023-31-05
Status: Completed
Grant Number: 69A3551747115
Total Funding: $494,855
Source Organization: Safe-D National UTC
Project Number: 05-109

Safe-D Theme Areas

Automated Vehicles
Transportation as a Service

Safe-D Application Areas

Risk Assessment
Vulnerable Users
Planning for Safety
Vehicle Technology
Planning for Safety

More Information

UTC Project Information Form

Sponsor Organization

Office of the Assistant Secretary for Research and Technology
University Transportation Centers Program
Department of Transportation
Washington, DC 20590 United States

Performing Organization

Texas A&M University
Texas A&M Transportation Institute
3135 TAMU
College Station, Texas 77843-3135