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AV ride-sharing: Social benefits and unintended consequences

The MERGE Greenwich Consortium has published the findings of a year-long research project into the city impacts of autonomous vehicle ride-sharing.


The MERGE Greenwich consortium has recently completed a year-long research project into the commercial viability of autonomous vehicle ride-sharing services. It also looked at whether these services help to make cities greener, more efficient and more accessible.

The project, delivered by a consortium led by mobility services operator Addison Lee and including Immense, Transport Systems Catapult, Ford, DG Cities and TRL, used the Royal Borough of Greenwich to model, test and assess options.

The team used Immense’s software simulation tools to test the viability of new mobility service designs by simulating alternative business/operational models and evaluating them against a set of commercial KPIs, alongside criteria that would impact on the compatibility of such services within a city environment.

The team was then able to assess how autonomous vehicle ride-sharing could work alongside public transport and what the effects of implementing such a service would be.

Key conclusions from the report include:

  • One in four journeys could be made via autonomous vehicle ride-sharing by 2025, delivering substantial consumer and social benefits.
  • The report finds this is dependent on a number of factors, including a fall in the cost of vehicles and the right customer pricing to ensure appropriate shifts from other modes of transport, such as buses.
  • Reductions of up to 43% can be achieved in travel times between homes and existing public transport hubs such as tube and rail stations, saving a commuter 3.5 days a year.
  • Thousands of unneeded car parking spaces could be repurposed as journeys requiring parking dropped by up to 38%.

The consortium called on the government to launch a national task force, including national and local government together with the private sector, to develop a strategic plan towards adoption of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVS) and Mobility as a Service.


Unintended consequences

Andy Boland, CEO, Addison Lee Group, commented: “While the Consortium’s research has certainly identified benefits, such as reduced travel time, greater convenience and reducing demand for car parking allowing alternative use of space, they also found that the service could have some unintended consequences in the near term if introduced at scale.

“Modal shift from buses rather than private cars, raising of emissions and potentially greater congestion could occur if the introduction of the service was not synergic with existing transport systems. We are clear that challenges lie ahead and there is a long way to go before the full potential of the benefits are realised.”

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