A research approach for studying the a priori acceptance of autonomous passenger transportation towards sustainable urban mobility planning
Authors: Anna Antonakopoulou, Eleni Vlahogianni, Giannis Karaseitanidis, Eleni Patatouka, Evangelia Portouli, Angelos Amditis, Odysseas Raptis, Evangelia Latsa
Abstract: In this paper we investigated the a priori acceptance and the economic sustainability of passenger transportation with autonomous mini vans from the city center to the suburban area, in the context of the AVINT Program. In AVINT framework a pilot operation of autonomous mini vas has been performed in the Trikala city as a continuation of the pilot application of autonomous buses within the framework of the European project CityMobil2 in 2016. The acceptance analysis sample consists of 720 answered questionnaires and its distribution has been done by age, gender, vehicle ownership, education level, occupation, purpose of travel and means of travel. The research aimed to i) investigate the factors that will influence the choice of an autonomous vehicle's service over the existing service with conventional vehicles, ii) estimate the number of passengers who will ultimately choose the autonomous vehicle service over the conventional one and iii) examine a future deployment of the autonomous fleet service as well as new business opportunities for the transport operators and service providers. The study was a stated preference research, based on commuting interviews and wide online citizen’s survey. Information collected using structured questionnaires following a well-defined questionnaires’ design methodology. This method enabled the investigation of commuter choices presenting different hypothetical choice scenarios, covering a range of different system states and values of its attributes. In this way, the required variability was ensured for estimating the parameters of a suitable model, which satisfactorily describes the respondents' preferences. In order to record the respondents' characteristics and preferences, questionnaires included three distinct parts: i) scenarios of transport mean selection, ii) demographic characteristics, and iii) transportation profile. Particular attention was paid to determining eligibility and sample size, thus different questionnaires were designed, in terms mainly of the autonomous vehicles’ route. These have been distributed to two different important in terms of mobility, locations of the city. The collected data were first analyzed with the help of descriptive statistics tools, while appropriate econometric models (Multinomial logit models – MNL) are then used, through which the selection factors of autonomous vehicles were identified and the number of their potential users has been estimated. Results shown that from the 22% of the participants who answered positively to the question "Are you interested in the new service?", the selection of transportation mean between public transportation with conventional mini bus and autonomous vehicle is highly relevant to cost, waiting time and travel time. An increase in these variables leads to a decrease in the utility and selection possibility of the mean. The constant for autonomous vehicle choice is negative and statistically significant. Results have been correlated to the a posteriori analysis conducted within the framework of the Citymobil2 project and several similarities noticed. This led to the optimized specification of the service with the autonomous fleet based on user preferences and commuting attitudes.Furthermore, taking into account the existing demand for commuting by public transport in the city of Trikala at the selected scenarios, routes and locations as well as the demand that will be assumed by the new service, it emerged that users are willing to pay €0.30 extra for the autonomous fleet service to reduce the waiting time, an amount corresponding to 25% of the existing ticket price and €0.26 extra to their ticket to reduce the travel time.Finally, an economic sustainability analysis of the service with autonomous vehicles has been performed based on the assumption that the project has a 12-year horizon (2019-2031). As regards financial autonomy, it was examined whether the revenues from the operation of the autonomous vehicles can offset the costs of operation and maintenance and it emerged that the operation of them is financially sustainable.
Keywords: autonomous vehicles, pilot application, user acceptance, stated preference research, sustainability, mobility planning, economic viability
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