Transport Network Impacts of AVs and Emerging Technologies

Peter Stephan
Published in
6 min readAug 25, 2018


On Wednesday 28th March 2018, it was great to have the opportunity to speak and be a panellist at the Property Leaders Brisbane event ‘Autotropolis — City Changing Responses to Automated Transport’ hosted by our PwC Australia Real Estate Advisory Team at our Brisbane Office.

The event received a great turnout with over 170 registered attendees, which I believe is a great recognition of the interest, challenges and opportunities in how Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) could affect us all in the future.

In my presentation, which is detailed below I covered:

  • An overview of research into the impact of AVs and related technologies on the transport network; and
  • Potential policy options / solutions that could be considered to prepare for these changes

I was privileged to be in the company of leading urbanists and thinkers in this area; and it was very interesting to hear some insights about such a wide range of other impacts AVs are expected to have on society from how our parking and kerbsides might change (or already are changing in some of Peter’s work!), to the municipal revenue loss challenges, to E-commerce, through to changes in culture and attitudes to car ownership, mobility and sharing. The topic of AVs is truly broad — it’s not just about the vehicles themselves.

Modelling predictions on the effects of AVs

Assuming current vehicle ownership trends continue…

(1) More trips generated

• More people (young, old, those without a licence) will have greater accessibility to car transport with AVs

• Lower operating costs which induce/encourage more trips (due the trend to electric vehicles)

• Empty vehicle trips i.e. vehicles driving home empty to park or go to different family members (repositioning trips).

(2) Longer average trip distance

• Lower value of time due to less opportunity cost when driving — work, be entertained (catchup on Netflix) or sleep while you travel

• Modelling undertaken expects an increase in average car trip times and distances

(3) Increased car mode share

• Modelling for South-East Qld estimates that the car mode share could increase to ~87% under a high AV scenario (up from ~80% under BAU). An increase in car mode share would decrease the share of PT and/or active transport (walking/cycling).

(4) Potential capacity improvements

• AVs are expected to be able to drive closer together and accept smaller gaps to achieve a higher vehicle flow-rate per lane per hour

• AVs are expected be have the ability to communicate Vehicle to Vehicle (V2V) and Vehicle to Infrastructure (V2I) to navigate intersections more efficiently

Overall Outcomes

Transition phase — capacity benefits are not expected to be fully realised until a high percentage of fleet are fully autonomous, as human drivers in the mix will be limited by human reaction times and driving styles

When we reach a near full AV fleet across the network — the congestion impacts of this extra demand are mitigated by capacity improvements

Travel Time Reliability? If there are less accidents, travel time reliability is likely to improve (less variability)

However what about Shared AVs?

  • It is suggested that AVs could be used to facilitate car-pooling activities with no driver required. The booking and transaction process would be facilitated through a mobile app, like Uber or Lyft. Under this scenario, vehicles would be largely owned by mobility operators and users would pay for AV travel on a per trip (similar to an Uber or taxi today) or subscription basis.
  • Shared AVs could be looked at as a new mode of transport between private car and traditional PT (buses).
  • The key promise of Shared AVs are that it would increase the average vehicle occupancy (persons per vehicle), which would reduce the overall amount of vehicles required for the transport demand; reducing the vehicular road space required, and reducing emissions.
  • There are potential efficiency benefits in a Shared AV scenario — it is often claimed that on average, cars are parked 95% of the time (which makes sense; say you use a car for an hour a day, that’s 23 out of 24 hours or 95% of the time being unused). Further, a high majority of trips have a single occupant, meanwhile most cars have a capacity of 4–5 seats. So of the ~5% of time they are being used, they are being utilised to ~20/25% of their capacity… so overall their utilisation is 1% of their potential! Shared AV operators would be expected to achieve far greater utilisation of the vehicle assets by carrying more passengers, more often, and possible undertaking delivery/freight tasks in off-peak periods. This could lead to lower transport costs to the end user, reinforcing the transition from private car ownership to shared mobility.
  • There could also be better opportunities for integration with the PT network (complementary rather than competing).
  • Modelling shows that Shared AVs have potential to reduce congestion and have an overall positive impact (including significant environmental benefits). An interesting infographic from UC Davis is shown below.

Image: Three revolutions in urban transport, University of California Davis and the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy (ITDP), 2017. Values are on a global basis.

The concept of shared mobility doesn’t rely on on AVs and in fact Uber has recently launched its UberPool service in Sydney however both AVs and shared mobility are significant trends occurring simultaneously and could be complementary to each other.

The road to Utopia — possible solutions to consider for an autonomous future?

Road user charging (pay-per-km)

• Could help replace the revenue expected to be lost by Governments through licence fees (decreasing car ownership), fuel taxes (with the trend to electric), parking fines, speeding fines, parking rates etc

• Higher rates at peak times could assist to manage travel demand — encourage travel in the off-peak when possible

• Occupancy-based rates (lower occupancy = higher rate) — this could encourage sharing and discourage empty trips. How that could technically be implemented is a challenge though.

AV-only Lanes (on Highways)

• In the transition phases to allow the capacity benefits of AVs to be realised

Integration with the existing and future PT networks

• AVs could complement and not compete with PT (AV’s as an access mode to PT)

• Trains, trams and buses — much higher passenger capacity per vehicle for high demand corridors; which will be needed with the huge population growth also occuring

• Potential for high speed rail and Hyperloop to transform our cities too

Travel demand management supported by technology

• Working from home or co-working spaces and flexibility of hours to reduce peak demand — the technology already exists (video conferencing and online collaboration)

Summary and property impacts/opportunities

Transport network impacts depend on many factors, but particularly whether Shared AVs are embraced.

For the property sector, there are possible urban sprawl / fringe development opportunities if longer travel times and distances are accepted e.g. live at the Sunshine Coast and commute to Brisbane — however is this a good outcome?

If sharing is embraced, I think there may be opportunities for:

• Denser, transit-orientated development that complement PT and active transport

• Co-working spaces (commercial property) dispersed through cities — people might not always need to work at the one office — reducing transport demand

The future is highly uncertain. However it’s up to us to build it, and shape our cities, and that’s something I’m passionate about having a hand in!

This article was originally posted on LinkedIn:



Peter Stephan
Writer for

Transport Data Analyst & Urban Futurist. Keen on big data, GIS and the future of cities & transport. Web: