In general, public transport lines are often well suited to serve passengers in high density, high demand areas. As shown in the other articles on this website, automated mobility offers many opportunities for dispersed areas with low demand.
But how should the public transport of the future deal with situations where demand fluctuates throughout the day, week, month or even year?
Challenge to plan for fluctuating demand
It is a fundamental challenge for public transport planners to plan an adequate public transport service for areas with highly fluctuating demand. Especially during peak hours, many transport providers are working against their capacity limits, while during off-peak hours (i.e. night or holiday periods) many vehicles are usually poorly used.
This means in some cases that the average total occupancy rate of the transport services is very low – despite the lack of capacity during peak hours. This not only leads to high costs but also means higher emissions per passenger kilometre.
Automated, demand responsive transport as a potential solution
To meet the challenge for public transport operators, a demand-responsive transport (DRT) system with a fleet of smaller vehicles is needed to respond more efficiently to both low and peak passenger demand. A DRT system is able to do this because it offers shared rides with no fixed timetable, and in some cases even no fixed routes.
Automating these vehicles will significantly reduce costs in times of low demand, as it will be cheaper for the vehicles to operate without paying a driver.
This means that an automated, DRT system with a fleet of vehicles can supplement or completely replace existing public transport lines when demand fluctuates in operational periods when the demand is too low to justify the use of large vehicles economically or environmentally, and with a view to providing a better service to customers.