Study: Robotic vehicles may increase traffic, but also reduce car stock

1/5/18, 9:00 AM

In a study commissioned by Trafi and the Finnish Transport Agency, the Transport Research Centre Verne of the Tampere University of Technology investigated the impact of automated vehicles on travel behaviour. Most Finns have a positive attitude towards robotic cars.

”In the literature, it is estimated that the total amount of passenger car traffic could increase by 10-40 % from current levels as the result of robotic vehicles. In a survey conducted as part of the study, 60 % of the respondents reported that they believe that they would travel more by passenger car if travelling was cheaper than at present.”, says researcher Timo Liljamo of the Transport Research Centre Verne of the Tampere University of Technology.

The impact of robotic vehicles on different modes of transport is still unclear. Robotic vehicles could increase the share of passenger cars as a mode of transport by as much as 10-30 %, but according to some research, the automation of transport could reduce the share of passenger cars as a mode of transport. In the multiple-choice questions in the survey, those who currently use public transport considered that owning a robotic car was a better alternative than owning a passenger car so the number of cars could increase in Finland's traffic.

”Due to the increased attractiveness of passenger cars, there should be determined efforts to develop the conditions for walking and cycling as well as of public transport in Finland with the means of land use planning, the development of traffic system and mobility management to avoid a growth in traffic emissions”, emphasises Assistant Professor Heikki Liimatainen, who led the study.

Robotic vehicles will allow making car sharing and carpool services a more attractive alternative to car ownership, which can result in a significant reduction and renewal of Finland's car stock. According to the study, around two out of three Finns do not feel they would need to own a robotic vehicle in the future if robotic taxis were always available and the annual costs of a robotic taxi were lower for the user than the costs of owning their own car.

”While the reduction in the car stock will result in a decrease in the need for parking spaces, increase in the number of robotic vehicles and generally using a car to get around, and the effects of these on the amount and type of space required by traffic remains a key open question”, considers Chief Adviser Risto Kulmala of the Finnish Transport Agency.

People’s attitudes towards robotic vehicles have not been studied in Finland before. The results of this study confirm that most Finns have a positive attitude towards robotic vehicles. However, there are also many people who are opposed to robotic vehicles, who would not wish robotic vehicles to become widespread at any price.

”On average, Finns are fairly ready to try out and use robotic vehicles as long as their safety and reliability can be guaranteed also in our varying conditions. As an authority, we are constantly working to ensure that it will be possible to carry out the experiments necessary for developing robotic cars and that the regulatory environment of the future will allow using these vehicles”, summarises Chief Adviser Eetu Pilli-Sihvola of Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi.

The objective of this research conducted by the Transport Research Centre Verne of the Tampere University of Technology was to clarify how robotic vehicles will affect people’s mobility and to gauge Finnish people’s readiness to use robotic vehicles. The study consisted of a literature review, a postal survey for over 2 000 respondents and an expert workshop. The study was commissioned by the Finnish Transport Safety Agency Trafi and Finnish Transport Agency.

Further information:

Researcher Timo Liljamo, timo.liljamo (at), tel. +358 50 447 9913

The impact of automated vehicles on travel behaviour study