The travel and environmental implications of shared autonomous vehicles, using agent-based model scenarios

Carsharing programs that operate as short-term vehicle rentals (often for one-way trips before ending the rental) like Car2Go and ZipCar have quickly expanded, with the number of US users doubling every 1–2 years over the past decade. Such programs seek to shift personal transportation choices from an owned asset to a service used on demand. The advent of autonomous or fully self-driving vehicles will address many current carsharing barriers, including users’ travel to access available vehicles. This work describes the design of an agent-based model for shared autonomous vehicle (SAV) operations, the results of many case-study applications using this model, and the estimated environmental benefits of such settings, versus conventional vehicle ownership and use. The model operates by generating trips throughout a grid-based urban area, with each trip assigned an origin, destination and departure time, to mimic realistic travel profiles. A preliminary model run estimates the SAV fleet size required to reasonably service all trips, also using a variety of vehicle relocation strategies that seek to minimize future traveler wait times. Next, the model is run over one-hundred days, with driverless vehicles ferrying travelers from one destination to the next. During each 5-min interval, some unused SAVs relocate, attempting to shorten wait times for next-period travelers. Case studies vary trip generation rates, trip distribution patterns, network congestion levels, service area size, vehicle relocation strategies, and fleet size. Preliminary results indicate that each SAV can replace around eleven conventional vehicles, but adds up to 10% more travel distance than comparable non-SAV trips, resulting in overall beneficial emissions impacts, once fleet-efficiency changes and embodied versus in-use emissions are assessed.


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  • Accession Number: 01522022
  • Record Type: Publication
  • Files: TRIS
  • Created Date: Apr 2 2014 1:37PM