The use of autonomous vehicles in public transport allows cities to offer additional services that might make public transport journeys even more efficient. We spoke with our expert Sebastian Pelka, Solution Director MaaS at PTV, about the options and advantages of autonomous vehicles.
Compass: What are the advantages of using autonomous vehicles in public transport?
Sebastian Pelka: Autonomous vehicles will of course make the operation more cost-effective as there is no need for human drivers. This will lead to lower personnel costs and open up new opportunities. Cities could thus offer additional public transport services, also in rural areas, which would increase their attractiveness. With our software you can analyse and assess all kinds of scenarios.
Compass: Can you think of an example?
Sebastian Pelka: When it comes to public transport planning, PTV Visum is used to match supply and demand, i.e. timetables and passengers. If it is planned to introduce a new line, for example, planners can calculate how passengers will benefit from the additional service. Benefit in this context means a shorter journey time or greater convenience, for instance. However, the benefit must also be compared with the operating cost: How many additional kilometres must be driven? How many buses are needed? As part of product development, we are currently working on transforming the conventional diesel bus fleet into an e-bus fleet. PTV Visum can calculate how many e-buses are needed to replace a diesel bus fleet – not only in terms of the current number of vehicles, but also in terms of future lines and timetable concepts.
Our software takes both the user’s and the operator’s perspective into account and allows for vehicle scheduling (number of buses) and calculating all relevant operational indicators (e.g. service kilometres, operating time). On this basis, we can identify a planning-based cost-benefit ratio and provide decision makers with key figures for their projects.
Compass: Are there any other application areas for autonomous vehicles?
Sebastian Pelka: It is also possible to model alternative public transport services, such as ride sharing services (MaaS). The cost structure of these services is even more dependent on driver costs due to the smaller vehicle sizes (fewer seats per driver). Autonomous vehicles would provide a more economic basis for such services. The growing range of services needs to be modelled so that their negative impact in terms of vehicle kilometres travelled can be visualised. And once autonomous vehicles are fully established, it will be important to bundle traffic flows in the form of conventional public transport.
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