At the Wheel

AAA exec Xantha Bruso ’97 sees the future in self-driving cars.

Bruso, who manages AAA’s autonomous vehicle (AV) strategy, develops policies to make driving safer—especially in cars without drivers. She has handled projects that range from establishing the first pilot of an automated shuttle in Las Vegas to advocating for consistent AV consumer education. Bruso first became interested in AVs in her previous job managing climate policy and analysis at Pacific Gas & Electric, where she learned that transportation is the leading source of greenhouse gas emissions in California. Her research showed that AVs promised a means to slow climate change, so she made the switch in 2018 to the then-nascent field of AV policy.

“AV is so potentially disruptive and pervasive to how parts of driving can become automated. It will change how we interact with vehicles, roads, and space,” says Bruso, who drives a 2015 Ford Focus EV and a 2000 VW Eurovan but would rather be riding one of her bikes. A resident of Kentfield, California, she and her husband have two boys, ages 9 and 11.

AV technology could revolutionize delivery services by providing efficient contactless delivery—which can be useful beyond the pandemic. AV advances could also help solve America’s shortage of truck drivers. Bruso says her primary hope is to decrease the number of car accidents, injuries, and deaths.

“New technology is a double-edged sword,” she says. “It comes with uncertainty.” Bruso, who majored in Asian studies and geography, cautions that AVs could, for example, increase emissions if people commute longer distances to work. That’s where Bruso comes in, as she hopes to foresee problems and mitigate them down the road.

Illustration by Robert Neubecker

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