National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

To conduct a randomized controlled trial to study how people respond to and value information about their driving habits

  • Amount $249,550
  • City Cambridge, MA
  • Investigator Christopher Knittel
  • Year 2016
  • Program Research
  • Sub-program Energy and Environment

This grant supports energy economist Christopher Knittel in his plans to implement a randomized controlled trial to study how individuals respond to information about their driving habits and how the provision of such information affects energy use and automobile fuel economy. In partnership with a company named Automatic, which manufactures and installs driving activity monitoring devices and provides that information to drivers, Knittel will examine how individual driving behavior is influenced by different kinds of information, packaged in a variety of ways. Automatic’s devices can detect and alert drivers during hard accelerations, hard braking, and speeds over 70 miles per hour. Knittel will study how different ways of presenting these data differentially affect driving behavior. Treatment groups will receive weekly aggregated summaries and comparisons of their driving habits to other drivers. In addition, Knittel will study how sustained exposure to these alerts (at either three or six months) changes driving habits. Though Automatic’s sensors will be installed free of charge to participants, individuals will be given the opportunity to purchase the devices, at different prices, at the study’s conclusion, allowing Knittel to estimate participants’ willingness to pay for this information. The transportation sector is the second largest energy consumer in the United States and accounts for over a quarter of all U.S. greenhouse gas emissions. This innovative RCT will help us understand better what interventions might lead consumers to change their driving habits in ways that reduce those emissions.

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