Shared driverless cars could make roads safer, transport cheaper, and reduce vehicle numbers dramatically, according to a transport expert.
Work by Professor Hussein Dia from the Swinburne University Smart Cities Research Institute has suggested that more than 80% of cars could come off the road if fleets of shared, self-driving, electric vehicles become reality.
Dia is advising Australian road regulators on how to plan for this future.
In Australia, he said, data shows that peak car-sharing occurred in all major cities in roughly 2004, at least in terms of passenger-kilometres per capita. Increasing urbanisation, environmental awareness, and cost, all contributed to this fact.
Dia sees a future of fleets of shared self-driving vehicles accessed through apps powered by optimisation software calculating the most efficient route for multiple passengers.
Only 12% of cars required
In 2017, Dia’s team simulated what could happen to Melbourne if autonomous, taxi-like vehicles were available. They found that if the majority used self-driving shared vehicles, the number of vehicles on the road could drop between 43% and 88%.
“We can meet our demand for mobility using only 12% of the existing vehicle fleet,” he said. It could also free up as much as 83% of on-street parking and significantly lower carbon emissions, he noted.
The line will increasingly be blurred between the bus and a shared driverless car, he added. Ride-sharing is already much cheaper than taxis or single-passenger Ubers. If ride-sharing becomes common using driverless cars, Dia pointed out that the cost could come down by as much as 70%, bringing a ride-sharing service close to or below current public transport costs.
Dia also looks forward to a reduction in the 3,000 people that die daily in accidents caused by driver error globally. “We find that 90% of road accidents are due to human error, so it makes perfect sense to remove the driver, which is the key source of error.”
This article was first published on Australia’s Science Channel, the original news platform of The Royal Institution of Australia.