A great combination: Public transport and autonomous vehicles (1)

Autonomous and electric mobility in public transport

Autonomous public transport vehicles have substantial potential: Additional services combined with greater flexibility are the basis for highly attractive and efficient concepts, especially for rural areas. And e-mobility will make the whole approach even more sustainable. This time our interviewee is Petra Strauß, Head of Public Transport Planning and Assessment at PTV Transport Consult.

Compass: What will be the impact of autonomous vehicles on public transport?

Petra Strauß, Head of Public Transport Planning and Assessment at PTV Transport Consult.

Petra Strauß: As autonomous vehicles will significantly reduce operating costs, they will determine the direction of the public transport market in the long term. This will open up new opportunities, especially for highly flexible on-demand services. Public transport market structures will change, this in turn will create new tasks for urban and transport planners. PTV Visum for conventional public transport planning and PTV MaaS Modeller for planning and simulating flexible on-demand services will allow transport experts to solve future challenges, such as how to combine conventional public transport and on-demand services so that they perfectly complement each other in terms of overall economy and viability of the businesses.

Compass: What, then, is the most pressing task?

Petra Strauß: In Germany, automated vehicles will probably first be used in public transport. Therefore, strategic planning should be geared towards this development. The task of transport planning is to identify the advantages of the different options, such as increased mobility for all road users, more comfort and higher quality levels in public transport, while considering possible negative effects such as transport service performance or emissions. Suitable concepts must be developed for both urban and rural areas.

We are involved in various research projects dealing with these issues. For example, we are currently conducting a study for the German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) on ‘Framework conditions for the use of automated and electrically powered (mini) buses in public transport’.

Compass: How will this affect public transport in the future?

Petra Strauß: Sustainable and city-friendly mobility will continue to be an essential goal of transport planning in the future. Therefore, we support public authorities and transport providers with conceptual approaches and impact assessments regarding mileage, CO2 emissions, accessibility, contribution to services of general interest and much more.

In any case, it is important to be able to better assess how mobility behaviour will change due to the new range of mobility services. This is not only about user acceptance of ‘autonomous’ public transport vehicles, but also about the willingness to share vehicles or trips with other road users. There is still a great need for evaluation, research and development in this area.