The transport sector has in recent years witnessed a resurgent interest in Intelligent Mobility and Autonomous Transport Systems, largely owing to high levels of congestion and pollution, especially in inner cities. Good mobility, though, is vital for a city’s continued future economic, social and environmental wellbeing and, therefore, radical solutions to these challenges are essential.
Given the inefficiencies of the existing transport systems, the focus of this research is on exploring the theoretical limits of a Low Speed Autonomous Transport (LSAT) system in terms of reducing congestion and CO2 emissions. Such a study is important in order to identify the opportunities that autonomous automobility can afford regarding mobility and pollution and clarify if it is a proposal that adds up in the urban environment. The method of approach adopted in the dissertation includes the City of London as a case study and it assumes that pods will be the only available over-ground public transport mode in the studied area, aside from pedestrians and cyclists. The first stage constitutes of the analysis of the current transport model, estimating indicators such as passengers per hour, passenger kilometres, passengers’ density, and the CO2 emissions generated by the replaceable modes of transport. Followed is the estimation of pods’ capacity in terms of serving the current demand and reducing air pollution. More importantly at the end of this approach the maximum theoretical limits of an LSAT system are analysed through different spatial and speed scenarios.
The findings of this research provide evidence that autonomous pods have the potential to meet the current demand, at a higher comfort level and in a significantly more environmentally friendly way. Scenarios’ analysis revealed that mobility can considerably be increased and an effective combination of speed and spatial scenarios can definitely produce desirable outcomes regarding mobility and CO2 emissions. The main conclusions drawn from this study highlight the chance to build more functional and efficient transport systems and re-design the growth of the cities along a more sustainable path.
Further steps for research should focus on more practical considerations such as the interaction of autonomous vehicles with goods vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists, as well as on pods’ logistics, management, and parking points. Moreover, a feasibility study of the LSAT system would elucidate the real costs involved in constructing a pods’ environment, while the limitations of such a system are to be taken into consideration.