Autonomous vehicles will provide the next revolution in urban and sub-urban transport. The major companies advertise the autonomous cars as the ideal solution for business and family travelling. However, autonomous vehicle transport will have an even higher impact and provide more services when used in the frame of public transport services. The use of autonomous vehicles for public transport requires the development of new service models that will transform the “simple” ride into a user experience, taking into account the diversity of passenger needs, offering personalised services and covering areas that are not economically coverable today. Although autonomous public transport vehicles are under pilot testing in many cities around the world, the major barrier for their large-scale adoption is that the transport operators, public authorities and passengers are not yet fully convinced of the safety (road behaviour) of the autonomous vehicles (and in consequence different regulatory restrictions cannot be waived to allow the full exploitation of the autonomous vehicle potential). Many questions remain unanswered, relating to solid evidence of the vehicle's secure operation in today’s complex urban streets, where they will co-exist and share the roads with driver vehicles, pedestrians, bicycles, etc. for many years to come. The large-scale deployment of autonomous vehicles, combined with on-line services, user profiling and dynamic itinerary optimization, will have a snow-ball disruption-effect on today’s public transport model. The disappearance of the drivers will allow transport operators to deploy more vehicles, which will lead to reducing the size of the vehicles, which in its turn will allow vehicles to divert from the predefined itineraries and start offering door-to-door services (based on on-line dynamic reservations and optimisation), leading to transit service personalisation and the introduction of new personalised, user oriented services, improving the user experience, and in consequence increasing the acceptance and use of public transport services. Furthermore, many cities have started proposing, or considering, alternative means of public transport combining all possible and available transport means, from fleets of autonomous vehicles to public transport, shared ride services, (electric) bicycles etc. providing the right means and combination of transport for the specific trip, known as Mobility Cloud. The integration of autonomous vehicles will boost the concept and allow a far better approach for public transport in urban and sub-urban environments.
The AVENUE response
The AVENUE project aims to translate the above evolutions, operational and behavioural challenges, into a successful integrated autonomous public transportation service (for example, but not limited to: elderly persons & persons with special needs or to areas with medium or weak accessibility), adapted for the needs of passengers and to city strategies and urban development planning.