New study investigates impact of ridesharing and autonomous vehicles on city traffic

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A new report based on a simulation model provided by software and consulting provider PTV Group has explored the potentials and risks of electric, shared and self-driving vehicles in the Swedish city of Gothenburg.

The research analyzed how self-driving vehicles will affect the city by modeling different scenarios using Gothenburg’s multimodal modeling platform in PTV Visum software. The project brought together researchers and traffic analysts from Trivector and the Swedish knowledge center for public transport, K2. In the virtual environment of PTV Visum, the researchers examined numerous possible developments. They focused on two forms of AV usage: carsharing, where people use self-driving services privately, like today’s cars; and ridesharing, where AVs are shared with other passengers who have a similar destination.

The researchers looked at different scenarios. For example, what happens if 33% of today’s car trips shift to AV ridesharing? What effects occur if 100% of people shift from private cars or public transportation to carsharing or to shared, self-driving services? The project team analyzed different parameters such as travel times, number of vehicles and vehicle mileage.

More AVs do not mean less traffic

The simulation results showed that an increase in the use of self-driving vehicles does not automatically lead to less traffic, as often predicted. The total number of vehicles in the traffic network can vary without reducing the vehicle mileage. With shared self-driving vehicles, the total number of vehicles in the traffic system might be significantly less, but each vehicle drives more.  Several of the simulated scenarios resulted in an increased traffic volume, despite a reduction in the overall number of vehicles.

The study found that a transition to AV carsharing leads to a 25-30% higher traffic volume than the transition to AV ridesharing. If people switched from private cars to electric, self-driving ridesharing options, traffic volume decreases by up to 6%. The shift from today’s private cars to AV carsharing made traffic rise by up to 15%. If in addition to today’s car users, public transportation users switched to AV services, traffic increased in both the carsharing and the ridesharing scenario. Finally, the report suggests that a transfer from today’s car traffic to AV ridesharing and AV carsharing reduced the volume of vehicles on the road by up to four-fifths of today’s volume. This would likely reduce the need for parking spaces and new vehicle purchases.

Kim Örn of PTV Group explained, “There are many uncertainties and open questions on how the autonomous future will develop. For instance, will AVs increase our desire to travel more? How quickly will society adopt them? Digital models allow us to simulate multiple combinations of assumptions that produce a range of future outcomes. The range of results enables planners to understand which assumptions have a greater or lesser influence on the outcome, so stakeholders can make decisions with increased confidence.”

The research concluded that planning, legislation and regulations must be aligned around AV ridesharing services to ensure that AVs contribute to a sustainable mobility ecosystem in the future.

The full report can be found here.

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Lawrence has been covering engineering subjects – with a focus on motorsport technology – since 2007 and has edited and contributed to a variety of international titles. Currently, he oversees Automotive Powertrain Technology and Professional Motorsport World magazines as editor.

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