Mobility plus: Future scenarios for autonomous driving

AFKOS: Future scenarios for autonomous driving
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With its AFKOS study, Fraunhofer IAO presents solutions for urban transportation based on autonomous vehicles

What must cities do to improve their mobility culture in the face of climate change? A new study published by Fraunhofer IAO, which investigates the role of autonomous vehicles in a multimodal transportation solution for the cities of tomorrow, shows that these vehicles are one of the most important points of leverage for sustainable urban development and a better quality of life for city-dwellers, and open up entirely new options for land use in general.

In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) published a special report predicting faster rates of global warming than previously assumed. In addition to the issue of climate change, cities all over the world are faced with multiple problems due to population growth and the associated shortage of housing and dwindling natural resources. This puts increasing pressure on municipalities to incorporate environmental aspects into their plans to improve commuter mobility.

Autonomous shared mobility as the key to problem-free urban transportation

In their AFKOS study, researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO have described how autonomous shared mobility can help to create a new culture for urban mobility, by investigating the topic of autonomous driving in the context of the city of tomorrow. “Until now, the focus has been on the technical and regulatory aspects. But I am convinced that autonomous shared mobility offers us one of the best opportunities to solve both urgent social problems and environmental problems at the same time,” says mobility researcher Claudius Schaufler, one of the authors of this study. The subject of the study, which was conducted in collaboration with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT as part of the Fraunhofer Ambient Mobility Lab initiative, was how to leverage the potential of autonomous and connected vehicles in the context of urban planning. Based on the example of an average-to-large German city, the scientists looked into the question of how new forms of mobility could reduce the need for parking spaces while at the same time guaranteeing the same or even better options for commuters than those available today. One of the proposed solutions is the creation of mobility hubs in convenient locations that would allow out-of-town commuters to park their private vehicles and switch to a car-sharing, bike-sharing or scooter-sharing service. A mobility hub of this type was opened in the Berlin district of Kreuzberg in April 2019. Free bikes, electric scooters and hire cars are available at the hub. An app called Jelbi is to be launched this summer, enabling users to plan their routes, book vehicles and pay for services.

AFKOS study provides ideas for transforming urban mobility

To start with, the authors analyzed 22 studies and scientific papers dealing with this subject in order to establish the status quo, and then evaluated them in terms of different scenarios and compiled possible outcomes in the next decade. The research team got together in workshops to create a meta-analysis and determine to what extent it could be used to influence political and urban-planning decisions. The results of this analysis were then broken down into separate elements regarding their impact on society, technology, the environment, politics and urban infrastructures.

The findings of this study provide decision-makers in the spheres of local administration and the business community with evidence-based information on which to define their strategies and targets for tomorrow’s world of mobility. This is all the more important because the decisions we take today when planning for future local and national transportation infrastructures will determine which forms of mobility are implemented tomorrow.