Automated Road Vehicles in the Long Term

Over the next few decades, Public Automated Road Vehicles (small driverless buses) can help create a more compact and energy-efficient urban form. In contrast, automation of private cars would make it easier to commute long distances, and could increase total energy use.

ARVs will eventually be able to operate at moderate speeds on public streets. But some exclusive ARV lanes would still be desirable, since these can be much narrower than conventional lanes, and can be routed where conventional streets are not acceptable because of noise, pollution, or overhead clearance issues. In new developments, much of the exclusive ARV roadway system could be at-grade with underpasses beneath cross streets, thus reducing cost and visual intrusion compared with elevated structures. The land taken by exclusive ARV lanes would be much less than that saved by reduced parking and road requirements for conventional autos. A trip on an ARV might involve traveling on both public streets and exclusive ARV roadways.

If the ARVs are small, such as the proposed 6-passenger Automated Microbus, they could offer non-stop, door-to-door service to single individuals when demand is low, thus matching the convenience of the private car. In fact, ARVs would provide better service than cars in high density areas where parking is costly or hard to find. Unlike the Personal Rapid Transit concept, ARVs would be shared during peak periods, which might require some intermediate stops and/or transfers to achieve high occupancies, although the time lost because of this would be small.