Today, cities are designed for cars. Roads and highways have taken over, and cities have become less and less pedestrian-friendly. The advent of driverless cars could bring a shift to this phenomenon, reverting city design back to being of and for the people. More precise driverless cars mean narrower streets, with larger spaces for pedestrians. Fewer cars mean fewer traffic jams.
Crossing roads will also be easier because driverless cars are more considerate and reasonable than angry human drivers. Amenities such as traffic lights and parking garages would also go the way of the dodo. Wouldn’t it be nice to have parks instead of those ugly parking lots?
Metropolitan areas experience sustained growth and are estimated to be home for 60% of the world’s population by 2030. Megacities with more than 10 million inhabitants arise and mobility is already breaking down in many large cities, leading to congested streets, high emissions, traffic accidents, overstrained public transport and the lack of parking space for residents.
In recent years, innovations in technology and digitalization have had a great impact on designing sustainable mobility concepts to counteract this trend. Urban developerscount on the integration of on-demand mobility services, autonomous driving vehicle electrification, and dynamic pricing systems into urban mobility.
“A driverless car on a highway: If an area has only autonomous vehicles, lane lines and street signs could be eliminated, saving millions of dollars.” – machinedesign.com
The advantages of on-demand mobility and autonomous driving are obvious.
Autonomous vehicles are expected to reduce traffic accidents and facilitate everyday life for persons with reduced mobility such as elderly or handicapped people. In combination with car-to-car and car-to-infrastructure communication, higher traffic efficiency, lower pollution and lower costs can be achieved. The list of benefits is clearly not exhausted by these examples.
But why is it taking so long to finally make use of the benefits self-driving cars offer? The answer is simple: A cultural change is necessary in order to accept the changes of new mobility concepts in a digitalized city by both, the people living in urban areas as well as the responsible public authorities. From an implementation perspective, the necessary infrastructure requires charging stations, car-to-infrastructure communication and, as long as there is a mixture of self-driving and conventional vehicles on the roads, appropriate arrangements to ensure seamless integration.
In the future we won’t necessarily own a car, but might summon a driverless car whenever needed. On-demand mobility services have grown in recent years, particularly important here is one-way car- and bike-sharing that gives users more flexibility in cities.
Among younger generations the importance of owning a car decreases and there is openness towards car-sharing concepts. Today, the average occupation of a private car is 1.3 persons, leading to many more vehicles on the road than actually necessary. In addition, an average private car today is used only a few hours a day and parked the rest of the day. Economically, this results in a disproportionate amount of space required for parking in cities. One of the most promising ideas to counteract this problem is the combination of on-demand services with autonomous vehicles, which we call “robo-taxis”.
If the robo-taxis themselves and the service behind are well designed, shared and autonomous robo-taxis can become more convenient than private cars, paving the way for a significant reduction of vehicles on the road.
Results of d-Fine’s study on the impact of robo-taxis in Milan, Italy
d-Fine is a European consulting company with a focus on analytically demanding topics that are dealt with by scientifically oriented employees with a high degree of responsibility for future-oriented solutions and their sustainable technological implementation. d-Fine conducted a study in 2018 on the impact of robo-taxis in Milan, Italy and it reveals that congestion-free cities with low emissions are within reach.
d-Fine performed a study that included the analysis of traffic count data, mobile phone data to analyse mobility demand, and also congestion data. This data was combined with extensive simulations of conventional (classical) cars and self-driving robo-taxis taking Milan as an exemplary city.
The results can be summarised in four main conclusions:
- Free traffic flow achievable with 30% shared robotaxis and 10% peak-shaving
A 30% rate of users switching from cars to robo-taxis in combination with a decrease in peak demand by 10% can resolve city-wide congestion.
- Peak demand reduction achievable through smart incentives
Smart incentive strategies that reach consumers are the key in order to shift mobility demand from peaktimes to off-peak times. This will balance the mobility demand throughout the day.
- 6 seater vehicle as core component of robo-taxi fleet
To serve the dynamic, urban travel routes, medium size 6 seaters should be used as the core component. Smaller capsules (individual) and larger robo-busses (long distance) will complement the fleet.
- 9,500 robo-taxis can cover demand in Milan
In order to serve Milan by shared on-demand services, only 9,500 robo-taxis would be needed in the city.
In summary, on-demand mobility services, autonomous driving and vehicle electrification are expected to have a huge impact on urban mobility. Complementing these game-changing concepts with suitable incentives and the necessary infrastructure, we believe it is possible to achieve significant changes which manifest themselves in achieving quality goals of free traffic flow, reduced parking space, reallocation of public space and the reduction of emissions.
- The Evolution of Urban Centers – https://www.machinedesign.com/mechanical-motion-systems/article/21837191/surprising-ways-how-driverless-cars-will-change-our-future
- How Autonomous Driving Will Impact Urban Living –