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Cities and road automation

30 June 2015

City authority and public transport representatives with an interest in road transport automation came together, with CityMobil2 partners, in Lausanne on 23 June for the third meeting of the CityMobil2 Reference Group.  

CityMobil2 is the EU R&D project demonstrating automated road passenger transport systems (ARTS) in urban environments. The campus of the Lausanne polytechnic, EPFL, is currently hosting a CityMobil2 demo, the third in a series of demos. The meeting therefore provided an opportunity for participants to try out the automated vehicles.

The meeting attempted to explore further the impact of automation for cities. The agenda therefore provided for a mix of presentations covering:

  • the results from real-life ARTS demonstrations (Lausanne and La Rochelle),
  • an overview of automation technology (task, functions and prospects),
  • some insights as to what vehicle automation can mean for cities and what key questions cities should be asking themselves,
  • the potential impact of shared and automated transport services operating alongside mass public transport in a medium-sized European city,
  • the potential socio-economic impact automation on urban mobility

While automated systems, similar to those demonstrated in CityMobil2, may not be ready for deployment in the near future, it is important for city authorities and the public transport sector to gear up for automation in order to identify the challenges as well as the opportunities, and thus to shape the way in which automated vehicles are introduced into cities. Automated driving alone cannot solve traffic congestion and may indeed increase the distances people travel and the total number of kms travelled in a city. However, automation in shared/collective transport services (eg, car clubs) do have the potential to reduce car ownership and possibly the overall distance travelled, depending on the collective service configuration (ie, shared or sequential service).  

Some key questions cities should be addressing are:

  • To what extent should cities be getting involved in the development of these shared/collective services?
  • How can the benefits of such services (in terms of freeing up road network capacity and space) be captured and managed?
  • What type of regulatory environment should be applied to such services, which fall midway between traditional public transport and taxis?
  • What is likely to happen if city authorities ‘do nothing’?

The presentations made at the meeting will shortly be available for downloading from the CityMobil2 website.