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Switching to autonomy doesn’t always make sense – A data-based analysis

There is currently much debate on the introduction of autonomous vehicles. A few years ago, manufacturers and developers here were still very confident that by 2020 they would be able to present comprehensive implementation scenarios for passenger cars that could also help to lessen traffic congestion, but today’s forecasts sound somewhat more cautious – and realistic.

Rail transport with its simpler conditions is one area where autonomous vehicles are already in use. In his paper at the Asia-Pacific Railway Innovations Forum in Manila, Friedemann Brockmeyer from civity addressed two questions in particular: When does it make sense for a (public) transport service provider to automate its trains and tracks? And what aspects must be considered and evaluated in order to initiate this development? He approached this by looking at three areas of application: commuter traffic, high speed connections and freight transports and pointed out: No train is yet truly autonomous, and all journeys are always accompanied for safety reasons. His conclusion: Commuter traffic scenarios with more than 60,000 passengers per day are the most attractive application.

And still: The expansion of this technology is part of the growth strategies in both Asia and Europe. According to his analysis, the area of commuter and urban transport is particularly attractive, since the cost of the system is offset by high revenues. Despite low costs, the expansion of high-speed connections, however, is not very attractive due to low revenues.

In order to make valid decisions here, Mr Brockmeyer recommends considering whether it is simply necessary to replace the technology, increase capacity or avoid using up more financial resources.