Does context matter? A comparative study modelling autonomous vehicle impact on travel behaviour for Germany and the USA

Does context matter? A comparative study modelling autonomous vehicle impact on travel behaviour for Germany and the USA

This paper, for the first time, presents comparable projections of travel behavior impacts of the introduction of autonomous vehicles (AVs) into the private car fleet for two countries, namely the USA and Germany. The focus is on fully autonomous vehicles (AVs) which allow drivers to engage in other activities en route. Two 2035 scenarios – a trend scenario and an extreme scenario – are presented for both study countries. For these projections, we combine a vehicle technology diffusion model and an aspatial travel demand model. Factors that influence AV impact in the behavioral model are mainly new automobile user groups, e.g. travelers with mobility impairments, and altered generalized costs of travel, e.g. due to a lower value of travel time savings for car travel. The results indicate that AV penetrations rates might be higher in Germany (10% or 38% respectively) than in the USA (8% or 29% respectively) due to a higher share of luxury cars and quicker fleet turnover. On the contrary, the increase of vehicle mileage induced by AVs is not higher in Germany (+2.4% or +8.6% respectively) than in the USA (+3.4% or +8.6% respectively). This is mainly due to the lack of mode alternatives and lower fuel costs resulting in a higher share of travel times among the total generalized costs of travel in the USA. These results clearly indicate that context factors shaped by national policy will influence AV adoption and impact on travel demand changes. Based on these results the paper draws policy recommendations which will help to harness the advantages of AVs while avoiding their negative consequences.

Key findings

AVs do not only impact on private road traffic; public transport and non-motorized modes are also affected.

AVs will increase VMT and decrease public transportation ridership.

The mobilization of new user groups (mobility impaired people, teenagers and other AV-household members without driver license) can have an important influence on travel volume increase. The individual additional vehicle mileage is much higher than that of former users of conventional cars when using an AV.

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