Automated urban transport simulation in Athens

The main objective of Work Package 5  of the LEVITATE project is to identify how the introduction of Connected and Automated Systems (CATS) in several urban transport operations will affect different impact areas, with a focus on the transition towards higher levels of automation. This is a process that includes the following main steps:

  • identification of impacts relevant to connected and automated urban transport;
  • identification of urban transport related interventions, through a stakeholder reference group workshop and an extensive literature review;
  • identification of impact assessment methods for the different impacts and interventions;
  • short, medium and long-term impact assessment;
  • synthesis of results and implications for policy.

To read about these steps and results of the traffic simulations in Athens, have a look at our paper written by Julia Roussou (NTUA), Maria Oikonomou (NTUA), Apostolos Ziakopoulos (NTUA), George Yannis (NTUA).

Watch now: Impact assessment of automated vehicles

The LEVITATE and CoEXist projects are developing knowledge and tools to help cities prepare for and steer the introduction of automated vehicles. The webinar, moderated by Suzanne Hoadley, provided insights into the methods developed for assessing the impacts of automated vehicles across a range of mobility domains and the findings from their application in real-life scenarios and using policy options such as parking regulation, road pricing and dedicated AV lanes.

Featured speakers were:

  • Dr. Hitesh Boghani, Senior Research Associate at Transport Safety Research Centre, Loughborough University (representing LEVITATE)
  • Dr. Johan Olstam, Senior Research Leader, Swedish National Road and Transport Research Institute (representing CoEXist)
  • Prof. Andrew Morris, Professor of Human Factors in Transport Safety at Loughborough University (representing LEVITATE)

The webinar, which took place on 15 October, was a Polis initiative in cooperation with LEVITATE and CoEXist.

LEVITATE partner in the spotlight

Questions to Wendy Weijermars, SWOV – Institute for Road Safety Research

Q: Please, introduce yourself shortly: what do you do at SWOV and what is your role in the project?

A: Hi, I am Wendy. I am a traffic engineer by education and I work at SWOV for more than thirteen years now. At SWOV I have been involved in a wide variety of projects, for example on road safety forecasts, safety at road work zones, safety performance indicators for roads, projects related to the safe system approach/sustainable safety and studies focussing on serious road injuries. Since July last year, I am research manager of the department ‘infrastructure and traffic’.

Within LEVITATE, I coordinate the SWOV activities and the work related to estimation of road safety impacts. In addition, I lead the Work Package that deals with the ethical requirements that the project must comply with.

I am not the only person from SWOV that is involved in LEVITATE! Other SWOV colleagues that are or have been involved in LEVITATE are (in alphabetic order): Atze Dijkstra, Celina Mons, Diane Cleij, Ellen van der Hijden, Frits Bijleveld, Govert Schermers, Jan Hendrik van Petegem, Lucas Raggers, Kas Kamphuis, Marijke Tros, Michelle Doumen, Rins de Zwart and last but not least Sanne van Gils.

Q: As a partner, how do you contribute to LEVITATE and why did you join the project?

A: SWOV has been involved in many European projects and LEVITATE is not comparable to any of them. At first sight, LEVITATE might not seem the most logical project for SWOV to be involved in, as SWOV focuses on road safety research whereas LEVITATE has a much broader scope dealing with all kinds of impacts of Connected and Automated Transport Systems (CATS). Nevertheless, LEVITATE is a very interesting and relevant project for SWOV. We expect CATS to have an enormous impact on (urban) traffic and subsequently also on road safety. Moreover, as different impacts -including road safety- are interrelated, they should not be analysed in isolation but all together at the same time. That is one of the main strengths of LEVITATE, in my view. Moreover, LEVITATE gives us the opportunity to do multidisciplinary research with a great team of international partners.

Naturally, SWOV is heavily involved in the estimation of the road safety impacts. As part of these activities we planned to carry out a driving simulator experiment to examine how human drivers adapt their driving behaviour when surrounded by CATS. We will have to wait and see when the circumstances allow us to run this experiment.

SWOV is also involved in other parts of the project. We were for example in charge of the development of communication tools like the project identity, including the project leaflet. Moreover, SWOV hosts the LEVITATE website and distributes the newsletters. We were also involved in developing the framework that shows how the different impact are related to each other, just to name a few.

Q: At SWOV, you mostly work on road safety, how do you think LEVITATE will contribute to a safer mobility?

A: My short answer is that LEVITATE can contribute to a safer mobility by better informing policy makers about the road safety impacts of their decisions in relation to CATS.

I think that CATS can have the potential to substantially increase safety. However, the actual safety impacts of CATS heavily depend on choices of policy makers concerning the introduction and regulation of CATS but also concerning for example the provision of dedicated lanes. To be able to take the appropriate measures at the right time, policy makers need to be well informed, i.e. they need to be able to estimate the impacts of CATS as well as the impacts of different policy decisions.

That is exactly our ambition within LEVITATE. The Policy Support Tool (PST) that we are developing aims to enable policy makers and other stakeholders to estimate short, medium and long-term impacts of CATS and to establish the most effective policy pathways for the introduction of CATS to achieve predefined objectives.

Q: What would you mention as biggest risks for the project to deliver what it promised? 

A: In my view, LEVITATE is a very ambitious and therefore also a very challenging project. First of all, it is very difficult to forecast what is going to happen in the future; who could have forecasted the drop in international travel due to COVID two years ago. Developments like CATS are particularly difficult to predict, as these developments cannot be forecasted by extrapolating past trends and are highly dependent on for example public acceptance. It is highly uncertain when and even if fully automated (level 5) vehicles will be dominating urban traffic.

Second, CATS have all kinds of impacts on (urban) traffic and beyond (e.g. land use) and these impacts are also interrelated and depending on policy decisions and other factors. As the impacts are interrelated, they ideally should be forecasted all together at the same time. Preferably,  use cases (urban transport, passenger vehicles and freight transport) should also be analysed all together, as well as possible combinations of interventions.

It is very challenging to forecast all kinds of impacts of CATS in a way in which all interrelations are taken into account and to also implement this in a user friendly PST that can be used by policy makers. Therefore, we will have to make some assumptions and the PST will have some limitations. I think it is important to be very clear about these assumptions and limitations.

Q: Do you think, connected and automated vehicles will change the way how we manage mobility nowadays? If yes, in which way?

A: I think CATS could have an enormous impact on how we manage mobility. To start with, they could have large impacts on mobility patterns of citizens. CATS could also for example lead to less active mobility as urban shuttles might attract people that currently walk or cycle and people without a driving licence will probably be able to drive an automated car. Moreover, I think travel time will be valued differently so people might decide to work further from home. However, policy makers can influence the impacts of CATS by all kinds of policy interventions like regulation, road pricing and economic incentives.

I expect CATS to also have an impact on the use of public space in the city. One might for example not need parking spaces in the city centre anymore as cars could drive themselves to a less crowded place. On the other hand, one might need more places were cars or urban shuttles can drop off or pick up their passengers.

Webinar: Impact assessment of automated vehicles

There is growing consensus that public authorities have an important role to play to ensure vehicle automation delivers positive mobility outcomes and averts negative effects. To help them make the right policy choices requires an understanding of the potential impacts of automated vehicles and of the most suitable policy options.

Details & registration
The LEVITATE and CoEXist projects are developing knowledge and tools to help cities prepare for and steer the introduction of automated vehicles. The webinar will specifically provide insights into the methods developed for assessing the impacts of automated vehicles across a range of mobility domains and the findings from their application in real-life scenarios and using policy options such as parking regulation, road pricing and dedicated AV lanes.

The webinar is a Polis initiative in cooperation with the LEVITATE and CoEXist projects. It will be moderated by Suzanne Hoadley. Featured speaker will be: Dr. Hitesh Boghani, Senior Research Associate at Transport Safety Research Centre (representing LEVITATE). More information on other speakers will be provided soon.

Title:  Mobilising Mobility: Impact assessment of automated vehicles
Date: 15 October 2020, 16h00 – 17h00 CEST

Register now »

About CoEXist
CoEXist is a European project which prepares the transition phase during which automated and conventional vehicles will co-exist on cities’ roads. It bridges the gap between automated vehicles (AVs) technology, transportation and infrastructure planning, by strengthening the capacities of urban road authorities and cities to plan for the effective deployment of AVs.

A virtual experience with kids, citizens and stakeholders at the SiW exhibition!

As part of the European Research and Innovation Days the first virtual exhibition took place during three days (22-24 September) to showcase 40 EU-supported research and innovation projects which have the potential to move towards a safer and more sustainable future after the COVID crisis. Slowing down global warming, improving our cities, preventing hunger and drought, fighting cancer were all part of the topics that schools, young people, citizens and stakeholders discovered through the exhibition whose aim was to bring the world of science to the public.

LEVITATE was one of the lucky projects selected to take part in the exhibition to introduce project activities and the results of last 2 years of research on the societal level impacts of connected and automated vehicles. The virtual booth displayed the visual representation of the intended final output of LEVITATE: the Policy Support Tool, as well as the project video and leaflets which attracted hundreds of people during the three days. This new virtual experience challenged the project partners to engage visitors while communicating through avatars, but they still managed to have fruitful discussions with people from all age groups and with different backgrounds ranging from software engineers to university students.

During the exhibition, LEVITATE gave 12 live presentations to offer a hands-on explanation of project activities. While 10 presentations involved a general introduction of the project by several project partners, two presentation concentrated on introducing a specific angle of the project. A presentation given by Anna Craciun (Transport for Greater Manchester) and Martin Zach (Austrian Institute of Technology) explained the local scope of LEVITATE meaning the usefulness of the Policy Support Tool for a city.

After three days of virtual futuristic presence at the exhibition we turn back to the project and try to predict a future where solutions for the appearance of connected and automated vehicles are not only showcased virtually but helping cities to create a safer and digitalised environment in reality.

Predicting impacts of connected and automated vehicles

The main objective of work package 3 of LEVITATE is to develop a broad set of methods for predicting the societal impacts of connected and automated vehicles. This is a multistage process, with the following main stages:

  1. Identify potential impacts of connected and automated vehicles and classify these impacts
  2. Define indicators for the measurement of the impacts
  3. Propose methods for predicting impacts
  4. Convert impacts to a common metric in terms of monetary valuations of the impacts
  5. Propose methods for cost-benefit analysis of policy interventions designed to ensure that societal benefits of connected and automated vehicles are maximised.

The first two of these stages were completed in deliverable D3.1 of LEVITATE. It lists a total of 33 potential impacts of connected and automated vehicles. The impacts were classified along two dimensions:

  1. Their extent in space and time
  2. Whether they are intended or unintended

A distinction was made between direct impacts, which occur immediately and are noticed by each road user on each trip; systematic impacts, which are aggregate impacts occurring within the transport system; and wider impacts, which may originate within the transport system, but mainly occur outside it, in other sectors of society.

Read the whole article, by Rune Elvik »

Science is Wonderful! 2020

The online science exhibition will take place online between 22 and 24 September 2020 and is part of the European Research & Innovation Days.

This year, the event will be open to schools and public from all over Europe through a dedicated online platform, where they will be able to meet and talk to researchers, ask them questions, perform their own scientific experiments, play games and watch an array of online activities in different languages. Particpants can discover the microbes that make our food tastier, take an underwater voyage to experience our cultural heritage, uncover a method to turn waste into wonderful materials and artworks – and many more scientific marvels that have a direct impact on our everyday lives. The flagship event may even inspire visitors – young and old alike – to embark on an exciting, fulfilling career in science!

The event will shine a spotlight on 40 research projects funded by the European Union that impact citizens’ lives and. These projects address the development of solutions to the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath, as well as the priorities that are at the core of both European and Global recovery efforts – such as the European Green Deal.

LEVITATE is happy to be one of the 40 selected projects. Anna Craciun (Transport for Greater Manchester) and Martin Zach (Austrian Institute of Technology) will give a presentation during the virtual event to explain the importance and usefulness of the project’s final product on local levels.

How to register

Schools, citizens and stakeholders can participate in the event for free. Once registered you will be able to access the virtual event by logging in on the website.
Register now »

Further details about the event platform and the programme of activities will be made available in the next days.

About EU R&I days

The EU R&I days brings together world leaders to debate and shape the future of research and innovation. This Research and Innovation days take place in a crucial year. The event follows an unprecedented global crisis. It also takes place just ahead of the launch of Horizon Europe – starting its next research and innovation programme in 2021 – and an enhanced European Research Area. The EU R&I days therefore will provide a unique chance to discuss how research and innovation will benefit the future of Europe and beyond.

System Dynamics

Dr Hitesh C Boghani and Dr Martin Zach co-authored the article ‘System Dynamics’. Owing its heritage to control theory, system dynamics is a modelling technique where the whole system is modelled at an abstract level by modelling the sub-systems at component level and aggregating the combined output. This allows us to use feedback/feedforward from one component to another within the system, which unfolds when output is viewed against time. Let’s delve into this further by using an example of population dynamics.

Read the article »

Amazon is acquiring driverless start-up Zoox

Amazon recently announced it is acquiring the self-driving technology company Zoox, which is developing an autonomous driving system, including vehicles, for the purpose of providing a ride-hailing service. The Zoox vehicle is specifically designed to overcome the challenges of autonomous mobility. It seeks to be autonomous in complex environments, both in cites and highways. The vehicle is bidirectional (both ends can be the front and the back) which is particularly useful for urban trips.

Zoox’s ground-up vehicle focuses on the ride-hailing customer. According to the agreement, the overall mission of the company will remain the same. This could open a whole new market to Amazon once the autonomous driving technology is sufficiently mature for the transportation of people.

However,  some industry analysts think Amazon’s plan is to repurpose the Zoox vehicle for its core business, delivering packages to shoppers.  According to analysts, Amazon could be interested in converting the vehicles into mobile lockers that would stop at delivery sites where customers would pick up the packages. This could serve as an alternative or complement to its existing fleet of delivery vans. Autonomous delivery would fit with Amazon’s plans to deliver more of its packages on its own and to rely less on other delivery services. However, these plans were not confirmed by Amazon.

This is not the first time Amazon invests in self-driving technology. Early in 2019, it joined other investors to support Aurora Innovation, which recently focused on the development of a  self-driving system for heavy trucks. The giant retailing company has also previously used autonomous technology such as self-driving robots in its distribution centers. In 2019, the company ran a pilot on autonomous delivery in the Seattle metropolitan area with small fully electric vehicles. It is  also working on self-piloted drones to deliver small goods to customers’ homes.

The acquisiton of Zoox changes the landscape in the autonomous vehicle business, putting Amazon in competition with Google’s self-driving technology spinoff Waymo, and General Motors’ Cruise autonomous vehicle unit, and increasing the pressure on smaller companies that are building delivery vehicles.

More information: https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-06-26/amazon-zoox-autonomous-ride-hailing

The demand for automated vehicles: A synthesis of willingness-to-pay surveys

Everybody is looking forward to the benefits connected and automated vehicles are expected to bring in terms of less congestion, fewer accidents and less pollution. But will people buy these vehicles? A lot of people love driving and would not want to give it up.

Studies of how much more people are willing to pay for an automated car, compared to a manual car, suggest that there will be a market for automated cars. For an analysis of these studies see: The demand for automated vehicles: A synthesis of willingness-to-pay surveys. Written by Rune Elvik, Institute of Transport Economics.