How are Autonomous Vehicles Going to Impact Public Transport?

Jul 20, 2018

Autonomous vehicles, a living example of driverless technology, will play a crucial role in shaping the future of public transport. These vehicles are expected to be completely available on the road by the beginning of 2020. Autonomous vehicles, with their arrival, will certainly impact the fundamental functioning of urban transportation systems along with public transport.

Basically, public transport agencies have two major goals:

Improve mobility across their respective areas 

Provide all their respective constituents with credible access to transportation.

Over the past couple of years, public transport agencies have focused on these goals by running bus or train transport systems that are sufficiently subsidized by the federal and state government. While the public transport system is dealing with the traditional transportation services, the private sector has come up with new technology-based transportation options like Uber and Lyft that have completely redefined public transport. In the near future, there are many such private companies who are going to introduce autonomous vehicles to deal with on-demand and fixed-route services.

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Any public transport agency’s agenda for the days to come must include the idea of forming partnerships where needed with private sector transportation companies.  This will provide public transport systems the opportunity to anchor the developments of the private sector in terms of technology as well as operating models, while still preserving the spirit of public transport. Driverless shuttles or first and last-mile solutions can be introduced by public transport agencies with the help of partnerships. This can be a win-win solution for both parties. The private company can choose to either charge the passengers or the public transport agency for the service.

In the initial phase of introduction, there are a few ways in which the public transport system is likely to be impacted by autonomous vehicles. For example, in its early stages, if address changes are required, then transit schedules may need to be changed accordingly. Autonomous vehicles can replace fixed-route vehicles such as buses. Also, there can be a change in the public transit labor force. As a result, public transport system operators may need to modify their fares to stay in competition with alternate providers.

The Future

It’s now time for public transport companies to re-do the plan for public transportation. Today,  autonomous vehicles technology can help public transport companies to achieve their goals and survive in a competitive market space. These technology-driven driverless vehicles can also help in improving safety and reduce greenhouse gas emissions apart from increasing mobility options and providing more efficiency through integration.

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