Date of Award:


Document Type:


Degree Name:

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Civil and Environmental Engineering

Committee Chair(s)

Michelle Mekker


Michelle Mekker


Ziqi Song


Patrick A. Singleton


Keunhyun Park


Hany Hassan


Have you ever wondered how people travel long distances and how it could be affected by the emergence of autonomous vehicles (AVs)? This dissertation aims to answer those questions by studying the current behavior of long-distance recreational travelers and their preference in the age of AVs. This dissertation has four main goals. First, it seeks to develop a reliable way to measure people’s satisfaction with long-distance recreational trips and understand the similarities and differences between long- and short-distance travel satisfaction. Second, it looks at the connection between how people travel, how satisfied they are with their travel experiences, and how this relates to their overall satisfaction with their destination. Third, it explores how people feel about using AVs for long-distance travel and tries to understand what influences their decisions. Lastly, it looks at the impact of vehicle automation, the interior of AVs, and how people use their time during travel on their choices and preferences. The necessary data is gathered through a survey of 696 people who visited national parks in the US.

The survey responses are analyzed to understand the research objectives, and some interesting insights are obtained. First, a survey instrument (i.e., a list of questions) is developed to accurately measure long-distance travelers’ satisfaction. The analysis discovers that the factors that affect satisfaction with long-distance travel differ from those that affect short-distance travel. Second, a strong link is established between people’s satisfaction with their travel experiences (on the way) and their overall tourism experience (at destination). Third, the study suggests people might travel more frequently and for longer distances with the introduction of AVs. This result means that we should not only focus on managing tourism destinations but also consider the impact on traffic and infrastructure leading to these destinations. Finally, the study finds that people are interested in using their travel time more productively in AVs, but we should be mindful of the negative consequences, such as increased energy consumption and space requirements. In conclusion, this dissertation sheds light on long-distance travel behavior and the potential changes that could come with using AVs. It emphasizes the importance of enjoying the journey, the impact on tourism, and the need for sustainable transportation. So, next time you plan a road trip, remember there’s more to consider than just getting to your destination!