New Research on Autonomous Vehicles, Blockchain, and Trade

Research Round-Up: May 28, 2019

Safety Exemptions and the Regulatory Approach to Autonomous Vehicles

Brent Skorup and Jennifer Huddleston | Public Interest Comment

From the comment: "We applaud the NHTSA’s [National Highway Traffic Safety Administration] commitment to improving transportation and transportation safety by encouraging innovation in HAVs [highly automated vehicles]. The underlying law and the economic research we’ve provided call for a permissive approach when granting exemptions for low-emission HAVs. We hope NHTSA will continue its case-by-case analysis until the regulatory framework is adequately updated.”

Economic Implications for the United States of a North America without NAFTA or USMCA

Christine McDaniel | Policy Brief

From the brief: "President Trump has stated that he intends to withdraw the United States from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) if Congress does not approve the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). Evaluating both the legal possibility and the economic effect of this action is difficult. There is profound disagreement in the United States on the extent of executive power. International trade is governed by a complex web of multilateral, regional, and bilateral agreements. Withdrawing from NAFTA without ratifying the USMCA would have potential ripple effects as other agreements will fill the vacuum created by the end of a regional trading arrangement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico.

While acknowledging that NAFTA remains in force if the USMCA is not ratified, this brief presents a hypothetical scenario in which the United States no longer has a regional trading arrangement with Canada and Mexico (that is, President Trump successfully withdraws the nation from NAFTA and Congress does not approve the USMCA). This scenario does not consider economy-wide effects, and it is limited to the following areas: market access for trade in goods and agriculture, autos, intellectual property rights, digital trade and e-commerce, investment disputes, and labor standards.”

Why Are the Prices So Damn High?

Eric Helland and Alexander Tabarrok | Research Paper

From the summary: "Why are prices in some sectors increasing dramatically even as economy-wide technology and productivity improves? Education and healthcare are notable examples of sectors seemingly stricken by constantly rising prices. Educational expenditures doubled between 1980 and 2005, even as math scores remained flat during that period. Physician and nurse salaries have almost tripled since 1960.

At the same time, home appliances and telecommunications have become much cheaper. Why? Is there a common factor that unites sectors afflicted by rising prices and sectors blessed by falling prices, or are we simply seeing idiosyncratic price increases driven by random ebbs and flows in technology and demand?”

Reform and Expand the US Visa System for High-Skilled Workers

Daniel Griswold | Congressional Testimony

From the testimony: "Welcoming immigrants with talents, skills, and ambition has been a blessing to the US economy and the nation as a whole. As Mercatus Center scholars find in a recently published policy brief, the economic benefits of the H-1B visa program go beyond the foreign-born workers themselves to boost investment and innovation in ways that create significant opportunities for Americans. Recent research has demonstrated that H-1B immigrants to the United States tend to generate more patentable technologies than natives: though they constitute 18 percent of the 25-and-older workforce, immigrants obtain 28 percent of high-quality patents. Other research examining short-run fluctuations in the number of H-1B visas similarly concludes that immigrants add to aggregate innovation. The greater number of patents contributes to productivity gains for American workers. The more productive American workers become, the more their wages are likely to rise.”

Blockchain Technology in Trade

Christine McDaniel | Data Visualization

Safety, Innovation, and Autonomous Vehicles

Jennifer Huddleston and Brent Skorup | Congressional Testimony

From the testimony: "It is not news to anyone on this committee that auto-related deaths in America represent a public health crisis. Currently tens of thousands of Americans die each year in auto accidents, and the vast majority of these accidents are caused by human error. HAVs are expected to one day prevent many of these accidents. Unlike human operators, HAVs do not get drunk, drowsy, or distracted.

Using today’s traffic safety data, researchers at the Mercatus Center at George Mason University and at the RAND Corporation have found that the long-term costs of delaying the deployment of HAVs can be severe—tens or hundreds of thousands of additional lives lost in the United States.”