Picking up a car whenever you need one and leaving it at your destination was a fundamental step towards a new understanding of mobility. Now, the eyes of the experts are firmly fixed on the perceived next step: autonomous vehicles. Sandra Phillips, Shared Mobility Architect and founder of movmi, explains how the two concepts are connected.
Sandra, it is your belief that shared mobility is a “precursor” for autonomous driving – how so?
I believe that there are three ways the two are very strongly connected:
First, we have a lot of data through shared mobility. We are able to see the patterns in which people are moving through their city, where they are picking vehicles up and where they drop them off.
This kind of data will enable autonomous vehicles to learn and to optimize autonomous vehicle networks and their routes to service demands.
In addition to that shared mobility has established a lot of the processes that will also be needed for operating autonomous vehicle networks: The industry has a clear idea how cleaning, maintaining and handling lost & found items concerning shared vehicles needs to be operated.
This can be extended to shared autonomous vehicles as well.
Lastly, shared mobility has taught society a different kind of trust. We trust that the person before us leaves the shared space in an agreeable way and also carpooling and ridesharing experiences teach us to trust other passengers in a much smaller shared space.
As there is no driver anymore, these new public shared spaces could become dangerous very quickly.
This is why systems that build trust – like rating your experience with other passengers – will be needed. And we should look to some of the best practices of shared mobility to do that.
Do you believe that autonomous vehicles will not be privately owned but shared?
I very strongly believe that they need to be shared. For two reasons:
On the one hand it will be way too expensive to own autonomous vehicles for regular people in the beginning. The best in class sensors currently cost up to 75k a piece and it will be a long time before the same quality of sensor is cheap enough for consumers.
On the other hand I believe that the industry has an obligation to make them shared as otherwise there would only be more and more traffic and we wouldn’t actually solve anything by introducing this. It would just be some new cool technology without a higher purpose.
That is also why I believe that a public body should to some extent be involved in running these shared autonomous vehicle networks. They will always make sure that all areas of a city will be connected and that public transport is available and affordable for everyone.
What will make sure that the user experience with autonomous vehicles is good?
Other than rating the other passengers, it will be the knowledge that the service is reliable. This can be achieved by expanding the on demand models to also include subscription or pre-booking options.
That way you will always know that a certain type of vehicle transports you when you need it. This way autonomous vehicle become the optimal first and last mile solution.
How will public transport and autonomous vehicles go together?
Public transit has its place and autonomous vehicles will supplement it in the future. Autonomous vehicles will be available on demand unlike public transit which has fixed schedules.
Additionally, the AV vse vehicles will come in all shapes and sizes – meaning that the idea that we have of “cars” or “busses” might change.
I believe that you will be able to choose which vehicle type suits your needs best: a “van” to shuttle all the neighborhood kids to school, a small vehicle to take you and your co-worker to the office, but also busses or trains that will operate without a driver.
Are there any concerns to be kept in mind when preparing mobility for shared autonomous networks?
There are two major issues to keep in mind when architecting such networks:
Without a driver we risk that people will get even more disconnected. Because you don’t have to ask for the stop or your neighbor to give you a lift. So people could choose to talk even less to others.
This is a concern because it was observed that in disconnected societies illnesses such as depression increase. We have to ensure that we build these new systems using technology to also foster social connection to prevent that.
Also, the industry will have to find a way to encourage people to treat these shared public spaces with respect and in a way that will not make the next person using it feel uncomfortable. Shared mobility services struggle with this issue too and it has not yet been solved. But we certainly have to think about this even more for AV shared networks.
What do you think – how could people be motivated to treat shared vehicles so they remain comfortable for all the users that use them after their ride?