Backcasting city dialogues: Feasible paths of interventions – the case of Vienna

The impact of connected and automated transport systems (CATS) in several areas also has strong implications on a very central question of urban development: Given a certain vision based on a set of quantified policy goals for a city or a region, which supporting role take recommended policy interventions related to CATS to achieve that vision? This article provides a short overview of the backcasting approach applied in LEVITATE that addresses this question.

From a cities’ perspective the advent of connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) is not a strategic goal by itself. Rather, they are welcome if they are able to contribute to the defined smart city goals and have to support a livable city. Improvements in road safety or reductions in the demand for public parking space are promising candidates for such supported goals, with quantitative investigation of impacts currently ongoing in the project. But there are some other impact areas where an increasing market penetration of CAVs (without specific regulations) might be in conflict with the strategic goals of a city: empty AVs avoiding parking fees might increase congestion; the attractiveness of AVs might lead to adverse changes in modal split; acceptance of longer driving distances (due to increased comfort and use of travel time for working) might further increase road traffic and promote urban sprawl. It is therefore essential for cities to integrate the full spectrum of related policy interventions into their considerations to prepare for the era of CATS – right from the start. Some positive impacts might be reinforced and accelerated by the appropriate policies, other desired impacts might occur only if a specific combination of policy interventions is applied – with the appropriate timing – and finally, some unwanted negative impacts might be mitigated by corresponding interventions. These causal relationships, however, are not always as simple and intuitive as it might appear at first sight. A lot of interdependencies – as in every complex system extending over different domains – makes it a necessity to apply a formal approach and consider a set of different methodologies that can support cities in their strategic decisions.

Defining a desirable vision in a quantitative way is the essential starting point for the backcasting process. From that vision the idea is to work backwards, via influencing factors (that are impacting the goals and indicators of the vision), to policy interventions which address these factors and thereby contribute towards the vision. Generating this series of logical links is a central part of the process, as it highlights feasible paths of interventions, steering into the desired direction. The steps in this process are explained in more detail and exemplified for the City of Vienna in the following article by the Austrian Institute of Technology.

Can the impacts of connected and automated vehicles be predicted?

A huge research effort is going on in order to develop connected and automated vehicles. Small-scale trials of automated vehicles in real traffic are already taking place. Can the societal impacts of a transition to fully connected and automated vehicles be predicted?

The answers to the question is that many of these impacts depend on the policies implemented to regulate the introduction of connected and automated vehicles. This applies particularly to two of the impacts that are difficult to predict: whether vehicle automation will be associated with a transition to electric vehicles, and whether it will be associated with a transition to shared mobility.
It is more likely that automated cars will be electric than that they will have combustion engines. However, to make a transition to electric cars more likely and speed it up, policies favouring electric cars may be necessary. Norwegian experience shows that a transition to electric cars can be stimulated by public policy.

Studies (e.g. Clayton et al. 2020) consistently show that individual use of automated cars is preferred to shared use. If the introduction of connected and automated cars is left to the market, it is likely that individual car ownership will continue at current rates. In that case, traffic is likely to increase, as the generalised cost of travel will be lower in automated cars than in manual cars, chiefly because the value of travel time savings is likely to become lower. Travel time is less burdensome and less wasted if it can be used to work or relax. An increase in traffic will reduce the benefits of connected and automated cars in terms of less congestion, fewer accidents and less emissions.

If this prediction is accepted, policies aimed at maximising the societal benefits of connected and automated cars may, perhaps paradoxically, need to counteract some of the private benefits of these cars. Experience shows that whenever transport becomes cheaper and more convenient, the demand for it increases. In economic terms, the societal benefit of an increase in travel demand is the increase in consumer surplus associated with it. However, as noted, an increase in travel demand increases the external impacts of travel in terms of congestion, accidents and pollution. Estimates of impacts made in LEVITATE suggest that even if there is an increase in traffic volume, there will still be a net gain in travel time, a reduction of accidents and a reduction of pollution. While the reductions are smaller than they would have been without increased traffic volume, they are not eliminated. Thus, all potential impacts remain favourable. In view of this, it is unlikely that policy makers will introduce controversial and often unpopular measures like road pricing or parking restrictions to curb the growth of traffic.

It is concluded that, at the current state of knowledge, it is predicted that connected and automated vehicles will lead to increased travel demand, but nevertheless reduce travel time, make travel time less wasteful, reduce accidents and reduce pollution, including global warming.

Read the whole paper, written by Rune Elvik »

Automated freight transport

In this WP7 article, we focus on some logistic concepts enabled by connected automated transport systems (CATS) and what disruptive changes we can expect from them. Freight transport is one of the three use cases in the LEVITATE project, beside urban transport and passenger cars. The overall goal is:

  • to identify how each area of impact (safety, environment, economy and society) will be affected by the introduction and transition of CATS in freight transport,
  • to assess its impacts, benefits and costs,•to test interactions of the examined impactsof freight transport, and
  • to prioritise considerations for a public policy support tool to help authority decisions.

Have a look at the whole article, written by: Bin Hu (AIT), Maria-Cellen Sawas (AIT), Melitta Dragaschnig (AIT), Clovis Seragiotto (AIT) and Marian Ralbovsky (AIT).

Passenger Cars Microsimulation Sub-use Cases Findings

The Work Package 6 (WP6) of LEVITATE considers the specific case of passenger cars which are used across the transport system so forecasting of impact will consider the use on urban, rural and highway infrastructure. Work undertaken in WP6 is based on the methodology developed in WP3 and the scenarios developed in WP4 to identify and test specific scenarios regarding the impacts of CATS on passenger cars. Findings will complement those of WP5 (Urban transport) and WP7 (Freight transport) and feed into the developing of the LEVITATE Policy Support Tool (PST) in WP8. The aim of this WP6 is to forecast short-, medium- and, long-term impacts of automated passenger cars on safety, mobility, environment, economy and society. The objectives of the WP6 are set as follow:

  • To identify how each area of impact (safety, environment, economy and society) will be affected by the transition of passenger cars into connected and automated transport systems (CATS). Impacts on traffic will be considered cross-cutting across the other dimensions,
  • To assess the short-, medium- and long-term impacts, benefits and costs of cooperative and automated driving systems for passenger cars,
  • To test interactions of the examined impacts in passenger cars, and
  • To prioritise considerations for a public toolkit to help authority decisions.

According to Deliverable 3.1, a taxonomy of potential impacts of connected and automated transport systems (CATS) at different levels of implementation can be classified into three distinct categories: direct impacts refer to the operation of connected and automated transport systems by each user; systemic impacts are system-wide impacts on transport; and wider impacts are societal impacts resulting from changes in the transport system such as accessibility and cost of transport, and impacts like accidents and pollution and changes in land use and employment. In order to estimate and forecast these impacts, appropriate assessment methods have been proposed in LEVITATE such as traffic mesoscopic simulation, traffic microsimulation, system dynamics, Backcasting and Delphi panel method.

A stakeholder reference group workshop was conducted to gather views from city administrators and industry on the future of CATS and possible uses (i.e. use cases) of automated passenger cars, named, sub-use cases. Workshop participants suggested a few new use cases for passenger cars. Those include specific detailed parking related sub-use cases and in-vehicle signage. It was emphasised that in order to have a better future of AVs, parking issues would need to be solved. Within WP6, five sub-use cases have been defined as follows:

  • Road use pricing:
    1. Empty km pricing
    2. Static toll on all vehicles
    3. Dynamic toll on all vehicles
  • Automated ride sharing
  • Parking space regulation:
    1. Parking price
    2. Replace on-street parking with public space
    3. Replace on-street parking with driving lanes
    4. Replace on-street parking with pick-up/drop-off parking
  • Provision of dedicated lanes for AVs on urban highways, and
  • Green Light Optimal Speed Advisory (GLOSA).

This article will be focused on the initial findings by applying the traffic microsimulation for sub-use cases, specifically the initial findings of the provision of dedicated lanes for AVs on urban highways and parking price. It noted that all autonomous vehicles are electric and that they used two main driving profiles (Roussou et al., 2019):

  • Cautious: long clearance in car-following, long anticipation distance for lane selection, long clearance in gap acceptance in lane changing, limited overtaking, no cooperation, long gaps, and
  • Aggressive: short clearance in car-following, short anticipation distance for lane selection, short clearance in gap acceptance in lane changing, limited overtaking, no cooperation, small gaps.

Have a look at the whole article, written by Hua Sha (LOUGH), Hitesh Boghani (LOUGH), Amna Chaudhry (LOUGH), Mohammed Quddus (LOUGH), Andrew Morris (LOUGH), Pete Thomas (LOUGH).

Planning for automated vehicles

The session ‘Planning for automated vehicles’ was part of the POLIS Conference 2020, which took place online from 30 November to 3 December. How can cities prepare for automation or should automation prepare for cities? With a focus on policy, planning and capacity-building. The session was chaired by Anna Clark from EIT Urban Mobility.

Presentations and contributors:

  • Automated vehicles in Dutch cities: 3 actions you can do now to prepare yourself: Richard van der Wulp, City of Rotterdam
  • Roadmap towards automation of EMT buses: SHOW and AUTO-BUS Sergio Fernández Balaguer, EMT Madrid
  • Autonomous Vehicles: Stakeholder engagement and urban planning: Richard Laing, Robert Gordon University
  • Building the capacity of cities to plan for automation – The Co-Exist automation-ready framework: Wolfgang Backhaus, Rupprecht Consult
  • Supporting policy making and planning for automated vehicles – the LEVITATE policy support tool: Apostolos Ziakopoulos, National Transport University of Athens

Anna concludes the session as follows: “Planning is a very important part of ensuring that we get the outcomes and impacts that we want, so based on the city policy goals. Public policy is going to be what determines this, rather than just the vehicle techinolgy, but they do go hand in hand.”

The session was recorded and can be viewed below:

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.

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 »