With an approx. 30 per cent reduction in travel time with MaaS (mobility as a service) for today’s public transport users, new mobility trends could offer stiff competition to current public transport systems. But they could also tempt private car holders to switch to public transportation. Photo: Piet Simons/ COWI

New report: How self-driving transport will affect the Oslo region


What impact will the latest technology trends have on future mobility in the capital of Norway? COWI and the PTV Group set out some of the answers in the newly released Oslo study.

The first self-driving buses to carry regular passengers in the centre of Oslo started work a few weeks ago. We now know more about how the self-driving vehicles – and other technological mobility trends – will affect mobility in Oslo and Akershus, thanks to this study. 

In just over a year, COWI and the PTV Group have developed a transport model on behalf of Ruter, the public transportation company in the Oslo region, to show how new technological trends will affect Oslo and Akershus. The analyses show potential implications of a future dominated by driverless cars and ‘mobility as a service’ (MaaS) concepts.

Download the whole report here.

“Self-driving technology will in itself not help us to achieve our climate targets or promote better urban development. But if we manage to use the technology to increase ridesharing and make traditional public transport more attractive, it will be an important part of the move towards more sustainable mobility in our cities,” says Øystein Berge, project manager for the Oslo study at COWI.


The report looks at four main scenarios where today’s passenger groups switch to shared, autonomous transport – both with and without ridesharing. 

All the scenarios examined are based on the morning rush hours on a working day in Oslo and Akershus. Here are some of the main findings of the analysis:

  • In all of the scenarios examined, the number of cars can be reduced by between 84 and 93 per cent.
  • If people in Oslo and Akershus all share cars and use ridesharing, 7 per cent of the cars on the road today will be sufficient to cover all journeys in the rush hours. In other words, 93 per cent of cars will be redundant.
  • The scenario that produces the biggest reduction in traffic is where users of public transport continue to do so while car-drivers switch to ridesharing. This will give a 14 per cent reduction in traffic. 
  • Conversely, the volume of traffic would increase by 97 per cent if everyone who currently drives and everyone who uses public transport switched to car-sharing, but without ridesharing. 
  • If the same group uses ridesharing, the volume of traffic will increase by 31 per cent.
  • If today’s public transport users switch to MaaS-based systems with ridesharing, the journey time will be reduced by an average of 11 minutes.
  • For private car-users, the average journey time will increase by 6 minutes without ridesharing and by 8 minutes with ridesharing.


So for today’s public transport users, the MaaS concepts could be attractive. This is the user group that will have its journey time reduced the most by switching to the autonomous MaaS concepts. But if everyone who now travels by tram and bus switches to shared cars without ridesharing, this will produce much more traffic than the roads have the capacity to handle.

“With reduced journey time, in the worst case, this could out-compete traditional public transport. On the other hand, MaaS systems could make public transport more attractive to people who currently drive their own cars,” says Berge.

“Driverless cars and MaaS concepts with a high degree of sharing will challenge the way we think about transport systems, infrastructure and urban development,” says Øystein Berge, project manager for the Oslo study at COWI.

The results tell us that we will need to improve the traditional public transport system in the future too – and encourage more cycling and walking, Berge explains.

“New MaaS systems which are an integral part of the transport system could play a major role by making public transport more attractive, particularly for residents who need to travel to or from areas with limited access to public transport. In central areas too, it could make a big difference if the travel time is shorter than with today’s public transport.”

Endre Angelvik, director for mobility at Ruter, the public transportation company in the Oslo region, believes that the findings from the study provide very valuable knowledge for people working on urban development and mobility.

“We are moving rapidly into a future where new technological solutions could change both how we think about private transport and how we travel. We are pretty sure we will see more self-driving vehicles in our transport system  in the near future, including in Oslo and Akershus. The question is how many of them, what impact they could have and how they could affect travel patterns and car use; that is why the study is so important,” says Angelvik. 

Could scrap 93 per cent of our cars

Despite an increase in kilometres travelled, the number of cars can be reduced significantly, in a future where all vehicles are part of a shared fleet. In all the scenarios examined, the number of cars can be reduced by between 84 and 93 per cent.

In other words, we can manage with only 7 per cent of the number of cars on the roads today. 

“This illustrates the potential for a radical reduction in the number of cars if we share cars and journeys. Previous studies have arrived at similar results, including the OECD’s Lisbon study,” says Berge. 

He stresses that this will also bring changes to our cities: Multi-storey and underground car parking could become redundant and could be used for other things. The absence of parking requirements in development areas will reduce the costs of urban development projects. 

“At the same time, there will be a need for new areas for passengers to get in and out of shared driverless vehicles. "We will need space and infrastructure to cater for this, particularly in busy central areas” says Berge. 

Very advanced modelling

This is one of the most complex analyses ever carried out on this topic anywhere in the world. The level of detail in the report is very high. It is interesting that Ruter is investing in this sort of analysis, says Berge. 

“In the past, only large organisations like the OECD have done similar analyses and modelling exercises. The fact that, in Norway, this is now coming from a public transport company clearly shows that they want to take a leading role in the development of future mobility,” he goes on.

Facing important choices

One of the most important discussion points going forward will be who is to deploy such MaaS solutions in Norway. Øystein Berge believes it will be vital to share data in order to optimise the systems and allocation of the cars – when they arrive. 

“If companies keep information for themselves, the systems will not learn from each other and will not be able to provide optimal solutions.. The services will then be poorer – and so will the provision to travellers. Among other things, it could lead to increased waiting time. 

"Driverless cars and MaaS concepts with a high degree of sharing will challenge the way we think about transport systems, infrastructure and urban development. This is certain – regardless of how soon the changes come” says Øystein Berge.

Download the full report here.

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Geir Vasseljen Mørkrid

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