Driverless cars could lead to more congestion in cities

Driverless taxis and automated private vehicles could result in more traffic on the roads, not less. This was the finding of a simulation for the city of Zurich conducted by ETH Zurich, contradicting previous studies on automated mobility.

The Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich) conducted a study on behalf of the Swiss Association of Transport Engineers and Experts (SVI) and financed by Switzerland’s Federal Roads Office (FEDRO), in which it simulated how Zurich’s traffic volume might change if automated taxis were to be introduced at some point over the next two decades.

The results were surprising. In direct contrast to previous studies, which have shown that driverless taxi services would reduce the number of vehicles on the streets, the ETH Zurich researchers found the opposite to be the case.

One reason for this discrepancy is that previous simulations assumed a high demand for automated taxi services, because they did not take into account user preferences for flexibility, costs and waiting times, according to a press release. In the ETH Zurich simulation, while participants agreed that driverless taxis are an attractive option, most would prefer to own their own automated vehicle when given the choice.

“The combination of high flexibility and the chance to make good use of time spent in the vehicle makes this form of mobility very attractive – especially when all family members can use the vehicle,” says ETH professor Kay Axhausen.

The simulation showed that private driverless cars appear so attractive that they could even lure users away from public transport, leading to more increased volume and congestion in cities.

“The assumption that personal transport will give way to shared automated vehicles is incorrect,” states Axhausen. For this reason, the researchers believe that a re-evaluation of automated urban transport is necessary, and they urge the authorities to regulate the introduction of self-driving cars.

Image credit: Thought Catalog via Unsplash

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