A new German-based study examines the prerequisites and deployment possibilities for automated and electrically-powered shuttles in public transport.
Researchers studied the topic from all angles: starting with the status quo and current obstacles on through to the necessary technical sophistication. From design of the infrastructure and legal aspects to issues concerning operation and efficiency in different areas on through to acceptance in society.
The examination incorporated previous experiences from international test operations, as well as expert interviews and surveys of authorities and the population.
An important component of the study was also a virtual analysis of the various deployment possibilities for fully automated and connected vehicles. What might regular operation look like when all the hurdles have been overcome? Using an actual transit model for the Stuttgart region created with PTV Visum, the researchers examined three different transit areas:
- A residential area at the edge of a large city with commuter rail connection
- A medium-sized city with core area and peripheral districts
- A rural community
Two scenarios apiece were played through in each of these areas. On the one hand, regular service with a timetable and fixed stops; on the other hand, so-called on-demand transport with shuttles without schedule and fixed stops — in each case with fully automated and electric vehicles.
The simulation that considered the real transport demand was able to demonstrate that using self-driving vehicles in public transport, especially shuttles, opens a multitude of new possibilities for designing more flexible offerings and organizational operation. In addition, it can significantly reduce operating costs under certain conditions as compared to current public transport.
“In particular, there is significant potential for driverless on-demand transport in rural areas where demand is weak, where there are few buses today. In the urban environment, outlying areas and times can be served well,” explains Prof. Dr. Christoph Walther of PTV, an intelligent software solutions provider. “However, as soon as there is high demand and there are only limited possibilities for bundling trips, very large vehicle fleets are suddenly required, and these make operation inefficient. Regardless of whether large city or rural community, the key is always the actual conditions on-site. That’s why simulations that demonstrate the possible effects of vehicle deployments are especially important tools.“