Autonomous vehicles

an opportunity for public transport

The autonomous vehicle is approaching market maturity. This becomes obvious looking at the latest experiments and media reports which were issued on the occasion of the International Automobile Fair (IAA) in Frankfurt. According to the car producers, suppliers and technology companies, there are nume¬rous possibilities for the use of interconnected automated driving. Konrad Götz mobility and lifestyle researcher at ISOE sees the potential for autonomous vehicles mainly in the field of public transport.

| Pressrelease

The next train station is miles away, the bus station is not even served once per hour and when it arrives, the passengers have to put up with numerous stops. Therefore, it is no surprise that in rural areas mainly private cars are being used to get from A to B. Alternatives like car sharing are hardly worthwhile in rural areas. “But public transport could increase its attractiveness in future, particularly in rural areas if it succeeds to fill the provision gaps with the help of the technology of autonomous driving”, says Konrad Götz from ISOE – Institute for Social-Ecological Research.

That is why the autonomous vehicle is no competition for public transport. “On the contrary, combined with digital access from the smartphone, autonomous vehicle can under certain circumstances be an opportunity for public transport”, says Götz. Not only in rural areas but also at time-critical transfer points of trains and busses where passengers need a prompt traffic connection, autonomous vehicles “on demand” could become attractive.

Suitable for everyday life and sustainable: Public transport on demand

“For a number of years we have been observing that the share of those traffic participants is growing who are combining different modes of transport and who are using the bicycle, car sharing and public transport in addition to their own car”, says mobility researcher Götz. “Pub-lic transport on demand” is suitable as an additional logistic element of the mobility chain.

Municipalities, traffic companies and service providers should prepare themselves in time for the deployment of autonomous vehicles, particularly those that can be used by several persons at a time, as for instance autonomous shared taxis or larger cabin vehicles, Götz suggests. The new technology could contribute to a sustainable mobility development, provided they operate Co2 neutrally, maybe as an electric version using regenerative power sources.

As ISOE researcher Konrad Götz sees it, this is currently the only sensible field of operation for the new automated and interconnected technology in as far as it can at all solve the existing legal, ethical and security relevant problems. “At the moment, the industry is strongly advertis-ing the possible comfort, convenience and time gain achieved when using the autonomous vehicles of the future”, observes Götz. But all that is only leading towards a strive for more time efficiency meaning that we have to answer e-mails even in the car. From a societal point of view it is more important to find out if and how the technology that is approaching us can be a contribution towards sustainable mobility.