‘Driverless’ transport model to be developed in oslo

Digitalisation and technology News


What impact will the latest technological trends have on future mobility? This is one of the questions COWI sets out to answer in the new contract signed with Ruter, a common management company for public transport in Oslo and Akershus.

COWI has won a contract to look at ‘New technological trends and their impact on mobility’. The initial focus is on the possibilities for mobility in Oslo offered by the latest technological trends and the phasing-in of driverless vehicles. The project is the next step in an assignment that was completed in September, in which three consulting firms were asked to look into these challenges by way of literatures studies.

Now the work is moving into a new phase, where COWI has been selected to take the study forward into a modelling exercise. The work started in December, and will go on until the autumn of 2018.

“The job is to develop a transport model to help us understand the implications of new forms of transport. The models will be based on traditional modelling tools, but supplemented with a module which can simulate changing trends brought about by the introduction of driverless vehicles, for example,” explains Trude Flatheim, project manager at Ruter.

Rapid change could push Norway to the front

Norway is leading the world in changing its car fleet.

It was the only country in the world with a higher proportion of electric cars than conventional vehicles sold in 2017. Expert in electrical mobility and project manager from COWI, Sveinung André Kvalø, believes the same thing could happen with autonomous vehicles.

“As the switch to electric cars happened so fast, it is not inconceivable that the same could be true of driverless cars. Autonomous vehicles will have a huge effect on our lives, on businesses and on the environment. That will not necessarily happen in a positive way if we do not plan for the change-over early enough," says Kvalø.

The models COWI is to develop in collaboration with Ruter, and the findings from them, will show possible ways in which autonomous transport and other mobility trends will affect urban and transport planning in Oslo in the future.

"This will provide Ruter, and the City of Oslo, with better tools to make decisions and create incentives and guidelines for the introduction of driverless units," says Kvalø. 

Need to turn self-driving units into something positive

According to Kvalø sharing and coordinating journeys will be key elements if the move is to succeed. He points to a well-known study carried out by the OECD in Lisbon, which shows that if all the cars in a city were replaced with shared driverless vehicles, 9 out of 10 private cars would be redundant.

“That says a lot about the potential for saving space and improving the environment in the sustainable cities of the future. But if none of the driverless cars is shared, the volume of traffic will increase even though there are fewer private cars,” Kvalø explains. 

"If the driverless cars take market shares from the public transport and mostly drive around with one passenger (or none), we could have a scenario in which the city is crammed with driverless vehicles filling every square metre of road capacity, and also spreading to the outlying areas as commuting by car could become more attractive," he continues. 

One of COWI’s jobs will be to use models to calculate the overall effects new technology will have on people’s transport behaviour.

“We hope that the knowledge from the models will help Ruter to develop a good basis for introducing self-driving units into the transport system of tomorrow,” he says.

What do we know about driverless cars?

(Source: COWI literature study of mobility trends, phase 1)

  • Door-to-door operation with autonomous vehicles could include users who cannot use a car today
  • App-based services like Uber and Lift pose a serious challenge to both taxis and public transport in many parts of the world
  • Driverless technology could potentially make the price of private car use competitive with public transport
  • Many traffic projections show that self-driving vehicles produce more traffic
  • Carpooling is probably necessary to achieve significant reductions in the number of journeys
  • The biggest reduction in journeys comes from scenarios in which a high proportion of trips are still covered by high-capacity public transport
  • On-demand minibus operation will help to reduce the number of journeys made
  • Interconnected vehicles will increase road capacity
  • Increased road capacity will lead to more traffic

What we still do not know about driverless cars

(Source: COWI literature study of mobility trends, phase 1)

  • Whether solutions for urban and rural areas can be developed at the same time
  • Whether there will still be a need for subsidised public transport
  • Whether the importance of journey time is changing (which implies more urban sprawl)
  • Whether the technical solutions and denser traffic will create barrier effects for crossing light traffic
  • Whether freeing up road areas for parking could improve access for cyclists and pedestrians
  • Whether suburbs will be used for overnight parking
  • Whether digital traffic management unintendedly could turn local roads into relief roads at peak periods. 

Get in contact

Geir Vasseljen Mørkrid

Geir Vasseljen Mørkrid
Head of Section
Roads and Transport Planning, Norway