The future of fully automated vehicles : opportunities for vehicle- and ride-sharing, with cost and emissions savings
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Fully automated or autonomous vehicles (AVs) hold great promise for the future of transportation, with Google and other auto manufacturers intending on introducing self-driving cars to the public by 2020. New automation functionalities will produce dramatic transportation system changes, across safety, mobility, travel behavior, and the built environment. This work’s results indicate that AVs may save the U.S. economy up to $37.7 billion from safety, mobility and parking improvements at the 10% market penetration level (in terms of system-wide vehicle-miles traveled [VMT]), and up to $447.1 billion with 90% market penetration. With only 10% market share, over 1,000 lives could be saved annually. However, realizing these potential benefits while avoiding pitfalls requires overcoming significant barriers including AV costs, liability, security, privacy, and missing research. Additionally, once fully self-driving vehicles can safely and legally drive unoccupied, a new personal travel transportation mode looks set to arrive. This new mode is the shared automated vehicle (SAV), combining on-demand service features with self-driving capabilities. This work simulates a fleet of SAVs operating within Austin, Texas, first using an idealized grid-based representation, and next using Austin’s actual transportation network and travel demand flows. This second model incorporates dynamic ride-sharing (DRS), allowing two or more travelers with similar origins, destinations and departure times to share a ride. Model results indicate that each SAV could replace around 10 conventionally-owned household vehicles while serving over 56,000 person-trips. SAVs’ ability to relocate unoccupied between serving one traveler and the next may cause an increase of 7-10% more travel; however, DRS can result in reduced overall VMT, given enough SAV-using travelers willing to ride-share. Furthermore, using DRS results in overall lower wait and service times for travelers, particularly from pooling rides during peak demand. SAVs should produce favorable emissions outcomes, with an estimated 16% less energy use and 48% lower volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions, per person-trip compared to conventional vehicles. Finally, assuming SAVs cost $70,000 each, an SAV fleet in Austin could provide a 19% return on investment, when charging $1 per trip-mile served. In summary, this new paradigm holds much promise that technological advances may soon realized.