What is the potential impact of the transition from traditional transport to new mobility models (electric automated minibuses) in European cities?

Type de publication:

Conference Paper


Gerpisa colloquium, Paris (2021)


Externalities, Modal shifts, Scenarios


Smart mobility is poised to cause a socio-economic transition of transportation systems in cities (Garau et al., 2016; Lyons, 2018). As part of this transition, Automated Vehicles (AV) integration in public transport requires further investigation regarding the implications on the transport ecosystem (González-González et al., 2020). This has also become a prime concern because of the current Covid-19 situation. Indeed, the guidelines to restrict the pandemic that shrunk the global economy by 4.4% in 2020 have caused acute disruptions in public transport (The world bank 2020). The pandemic crisis also highlighted the vulnerabilities of the public transport ecosystem. It became more crucial to ensure accessible, safe, and reliable services (Liu et al., 2020; Jenelius and Cebecauer 2020). Thus, automated minibuses could provide a solution to the unsustainability of the transport sector and increase public transport competitiveness. Indeed, the introduction of on-demand, door-to-door, shared automated vehicles could reduce car-ownership, impact travel behaviour, enhance public transport services, and eventually lead to smart and livable cities (Nogués et al., 2020). To better ensure that this mode of transport achieves its potential, key stakeholders should be equipped with the tools to guide them in embedding the automated minibus in the future city (Medina-Tapia and Robusté 2019).
This paper suggests possible future scenarios future scenarios of automated minibuses deployment and calculate the environmental impact through externalities caused by these modal shifts (from traditional transport to automated minibuses).
Thus, the research tries to answer the question: What is the potential impact of the transition from traditional transport to new mobility (automated minibuses) in European cities?
The assessment of the impact of replacing transportation means (individual passenger car, public transport, walking, and biking) provides insights to integrate the automated minibuses in cities better to support public transport and increase accessibility to the citizens.
First, scenario planning using the intuitive logics method generates possible futures (Gallez et al. 2013; Lloyd and Schweizer 2014). These future forecasts support understanding complex connections between technological innovation, business models, and public policies that will shape future mobility (Townsend 2014). In this step, potential scenarios for deploying the automated minibuses are presented and described for a standard European city to determine the potential effects on the modals shifts. Then, they are applied for the case of Geneva: a pilot test of automated minibuses within an H2020 project called AVENUE. The observations and data from the test site support the elaboration and the analysis of the scenarios.
Second, the categories of the externalities and the impacts to be considered in the calculations are determined (van Essen et al., 2019). Then, the potential external cost factors for the deployment of the automated minibuses and those for the cars and buses are fixed. The external cost factors are based on the transport activity in Geneva.
Third, the total externalities incurred from the modal shifts for each of the scenarios applied to Geneva are estimated and compared.

Main results
The economic and environmental impacts of automated minibuses depend on the circumstances of their deployment. Indeed,the different scenarios show different potential impacts of deploying the automated minibuses. Under the right conditions (higher speed, circulation area and time, connection to mobility hubs, MaaS services provided by public-private-partenership…) , it could decrease the environmental footprint, reduce accidents and congestion, increase accessibility, and strengthen the public transport offer. However, under certain less favorable conditions , they could also exacerbate current trends such as dependency on individual mobility, an increase in vehicle travelled kilometres, and urban sprawl.
The scenarios that lead to a change in modal share from passenger cars to automated minibuses provide the most savings in the externalities, i.e. the least negative impact on the environment and on the city.
Fully operated automated minibuses as public transportation feeder in an intermodal city mobility concept present the most plausible scenario to benefit the city. Also, the scenario that focused on providing the services of automated minibuses in areas with no other public transport lead to reduction in the use of cars and thus reduction in the environmental external costs. The highest savings in externalities from the implementation of the automated minibuses came from congestion and noise, especially for Geneva.


The external costs give a monetary indicator on which scenario to adopt in the future and which public policies to implement. It better highlights the external effects of mobility, such as climate change, congestion, and air pollution. Targeted integration of new mobility models within the transport ecosystem could reduce the external costs and help better serve the passengers and the citizens. Theminibuses should be deployed to change mobility patterns: replace individual mobility, support the existing offer of public transport, and promote active modes of transport. However, this change hinges on the technology’s evolution, acceptance of the users, land use and transportation policies, and the collaboration between private and public transport operators.

This study can help the city, transport operators, and policymakers be more resilient in putting in place robust strategy to strengthen public transport and avoid future obstacles caused by extraordinary events such as Covid-19 pandemics or even natural disasters exacerbated by climate change.

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