European researchers offer suggestions for agencies seeking to encourage growth of sustainable transportation options such as automated shuttles.
The recommendations offer various methods to influence rider habit, such as gamification of the service and public outreach.
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Autonomous Shuttle-as-a-Service (ASaaS): Challenges, Opportunities, and Social Implications


Autonomous Shuttles are vehicles that are designed to primarily navigate without direct input from a human operator. They are expected to be effective in transporting people through areas where conventional bus service is not feasible, or where the routing is highly predictable.

A team of researchers from Italy and France have released a report identifying challenges and opportunities associated with the introduction of Autonomous Shuttle-as-a-Service (ASaaS). They identified application scenarios in order to analyze likely uses of ASaaS and to determine key topics on which potential deployments should focus.

Lessons Learned

As part of this effort, the team identified key areas to be considered in future work on automated shuttles. They issued the following recommendations:

  • Create sustainable mobility ecosystems. The need by municipalities to balance transportation service with environmental concerns requires a systemic approach for innovation based on technology. The authors recommend a holistic approach to efficiently take advantage of existing mobility resources while integrating emerging services in order to ensure a smooth and effective transition towards sustainable transportation.
  • Interventions by cities into transportation services must be combined with public outreach. By obtaining public buy-in to the process, the task of influencing mobility habits in a gradual way is made much more realizable.
  • Engage end-users through gamification. The process of changing a large population’s behavior is extremely challenging. Gamification has proven to be a possible solution that is relatively cost-effective. For example, an agency seeking to promote sustainable transportation may use gamification to foster adoption of new services and provide incentives to support innovative policies.
  • Use simulation and machine learning techniques for last-mile mobility planning. Analyzing the wide array of last-mile mobility solutions that may or should be introduced into a transportation environment is a complex task that involves a large number of variables and that has lasting effects on transportation infrastructure and deployment planning. The authors of the report suggest the development of a simulation framework to be used as an off-the-shelf tool for planners that could score mobility plans along parameters such as cost, wait time, and environmental impact. This would allow for flexible, responsive planning to be performed by cities regardless of size.
  • Track certification with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Blockchain. Automated Shuttles may be used as sources of information, given the wealth of data that they collect through operation. The report suggests integrating AI and Blockchain techniques to track and certify users’ journeys while maintaining their privacy.