Autonomous vehicles could increase congestion, report warns


The growth of autonomous cars around the world will lead to increased congestion and aggravate existing problems unless efforts are made to promote shared services and public transport options.

This is according to a new report from the International Association of Public Transport (UITP), which warned of the risk of a “dystopian future” for urban areas if more people opt for private car ownership due to improved comfort and convenience.

However, the report also suggested that if efforts are made to promote the use of autonomous technology in ‘shared fleets’, such as the ‘robo-taxis’ currently being trialled in Singapore, it could dramatically reduce the number of traffic on the roads by as much as 80 per cent.

Such efforts could also help reach people and places that were impractical for public transport options to serve in the past, plugging first/last-mile gaps and feeding into public transport trunk lines, the report continued.

UITP secretary-general Alain Flausch said shared fleets based on driverless technology could also help reduce noise and air pollution, improve traffic efficiency and free up urban spaces for purposes other than parking.

“When 1.2 million people around the world die each year in car-related deaths, 90 per cent of which are due to human error, the road safety benefits are also significant,” he continued.

To achieve this, public authorities must take an active role in the roll-out of autonomous vehicles (AVs). The UITP called for more trials to begin on public roads to see how best to integrate these vehicles into the mobility ecosystem.

“AVs are a potential game-changer for urban mobility and cities and countries must act now to shape their roll-out,” Mr Flausch said. AVs offer the chance for a fundamental change … but if we do not act now vehicle automation might even further increase the volume and use of private cars with all of the associated negative externalities.”

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