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MPhil in Engineering for Sustainable Development

global challenges, engineering solutions

The reduction of inner city congestion and pollution problems using Low Speed Autonomous Transport Systems: a study for the City of London.


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.


Course Overview


The need to engage in better problem definition through careful dialogue with all stakeholder groups and a proper recognition of context.


An ability to work with specialists from other disciplines and professional groups acknowledging that technical innovation and business skills also must be understood, nurtured and combined as precursors to the successful implementation of sustainable solutions.


An understanding of mechanisms for managing change in organisations so future engineers are equipped to play a leadership role.


An awareness of a range of assessment frameworks, sustainability metrics and methodologies such as Life Cycle Analysis, Systems Dynamics, Multi-Criteria Decision making and Impact Assessment.