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Future Scenarios for the Development of Self-driving Vehicles in Sweden

The development of Self-Driving Vehicles (SDVs) is fast, and several vehicle
manufacturers have announced that they will launch fully self-driving vehicles
to the market around the year 2020. SDVs have the potential to disruptively change mobility and transportation - but the question remains open: How will this future look?

In literature, both negative and positive effects of SDVs are listed. Among the positive effects are increased traffic throughput leading to less congestion, improved mobility for people without a driver’s license, decreased need for parking spaces, and SDVs as an enabler for shared mobility. On the other hand, SDVs are expected to increase the consumption of transport which leads to an increase in total vehicle kilometers travelled. This effect is further reinforced by empty vehicles driving around. This will increase the number of vehicles on the streets and lead to more congestion and increased energy usage. Since the SDV technology is expensive, segregation may be a consequence of the development. In addition there are several challenges related e.g legislation, standardization, infrastructure investments, privacy, and security. The question is not if, but rather when SDVs will be common on our streets and roads, and if they will change our way of living, and if so, how?

As we are in a potential mobility shift and decisions made today will affect the future development, understanding possibilities and challenges for the future is important for many stakeholders. To this end a scenario-based future study was performed to derive a common platform for initiation of future research and innovation projects concerning SDVs in Sweden. This study will also be used in the ongoing governmental investigation about future regulations for SDVs on Swedish roads. A third motivation for the study was to shed light on how demography, geography and political landscape can affect the development of new mobility services.

Since there are many different forces that drive development, often uncertain and sometimes in conflict with each other, a scenario planning approach was chosen. In previous studies, different types of predictions have been derived. Most of them are made by US scholars and are therefore naturally focused on the development in the US. The culture, both with respect to urban planning and public transport is different in Europe compared to the US.

The work was performed by an expert group and a smaller analysis team. The expert group included nearly 40 people from 20 transport organizations, including public authorities, lawyers, city planners, researchers, transport service suppliers, and vehicle manufacturers. The expert group met three times, each time focusing on a specific theme: 1) trend analysis, 2) defining scenario axes of uncertainty, and 3) consequence analysis. The analysis team, consisting of the present three authors and two future strategists, has analyzed, refined and condensed the material from the expert group.

During the project certain trends and strategic uncertainties were identified by the expert group. The uncertainties that were identified as most important for the development of SDVs in Sweden are: 1) whether the sharing economy becomes a new norm or not, and 2) whether city planners, authorities and politicians will be proactive in the development of cities and societies or not, especially regarding the transportation system. This led to four scenarios: A) “Same, same but all the difference” – a green, individualistic society, B) “Sharing is the new black” – a governmentally driven innovation society based on sharing, C) “Follow the path” – an individualistic society based on development in the same direction as today, and D) “What you need is what you get” – a commercially driven innovation society where sharing is a key.

In the project, we describe the scenarios and the process to derive them in more detail. We also present an analysis of the consequences for the development of SDVs in the four scenarios, including predictions concerning pace of development, level of self-driving, fleet size, travel demand and vehicle kilometers travelled. The paper also includes a discussion and comparison with other studies on the development of SDVs in the US, Europe and Asia.

The project was funded by ITRL, VTI, and Drive Sweden. We would also like to acknowledge the participants in the expert group who have contributed with their expertise in several workshops.

Belongs to: Integrated Transport Research Lab (ITRL)
Last changed: Apr 20, 2021
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