Autonomous vehicles should be used in shared fleets, and integrated with traditional public transport. This is the most efficient way to reduce the number of cars on the road, and help eliminate congestion issues. That is the conclusion of a paper published by the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), reports allinx, the Association of European Mobility Management Professionals.
The paper, titled Autonomous Vehicles: A Potential Game-Changer for Urban Mobility, concluded that autonomous vehicles that are put to use in shared fleets as 'robo-taxis' or mini-buses, or in car-sharing fleets, will be able to get people to places that are too difficult to reach with current transport modes. By plugging these first/last-mile gaps and connecting to existing public transport options, autonomous vehicles can make an important contribution to reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
According to the UITP, shared fleets integrated with public transport offer the best chance of an urban future in which noise and air pollution are signficantly reduced, traffic proceeds more efficiently and the reduction in vehicles on the road frees up parking lots and more, vast areas of urban space.
“When 1.2m people around the world die each year in car-related deaths, 90 percent of which are due to human error, the road safety benefits are also significant”, adds UITP Secretary General, Alain Flausch (pictured).
But for the rollout and integration of autonomous vehicles to be truly successful, the UITP stresses that the safety and security of the driverless operation of these vehicles must be fully guaranteed. Without that assurance, autonomous vehicles will not be able to play a game-changing role in enhancing public transport.
The UITP stresses that public authorities have a crucial role to play in rolling out autonomous vehicles, and in ensuring that their shared use has a maximum impact on the development of shared mobility and the reduction in single-car occupancy. Road pricing and car taxation are two suggestions for governments to help reshape mobility behaviour.
Another is help in setting up platforms for Mobility as a Service: the best way forward is to trial the integration of autonomous vehicles into general road use with real-world tests and to prepare for the impact on employment, as some jobs are likely to disappear – two areas in which the role of government is indispensible, the UITP argues.
“Autonomous vehicles are a potential game-changer for urban mobility and cities and countries must act now to shape their roll-out,” concluded Mr Flausch. “They offer the chance for a fundamental change – as a key part of tomorrow’s integrated transport systems with public transport as a backbone – but if we do not act now vehicle automation might even further increase the volume and use of private cars with all of the associated negative externalities”.