An Evaluation of the Valley Metro–Waymo Automated Vehicle RideChoice Mobility on Demand Demonstration, Final Report
As a part of the Federal Transit Administration (FTA) Mobility on Demand (MOD) Sandbox program, Valley Metro and an automated vehicle (AV) company partnered to pilot the use of AVs for Valley Metro’s RideChoice program, a curb-to-curb individual mobility service via taxi or ride-hailing services for people with disabilities and for older adults over the age of 65 and living in Greater Phoenix. This project was a six-month demonstration of AVs SAE J3016 (Level 4, high driving automation) with a vehicle safety operator on-board that occurred between September 15, 2019– March 15, 2020. The objective of the project was to study the potential behavioral impacts of AV MOD services and to understand the potential for AVs to meet the daily needs of otherwise mobility-disadvantaged citizens. The AV rides were offered in a geo-fenced area of about 100 square miles. Three surveys (Prior-, During-, and Post-Pilot) were conducted collecting responses on the safety, convenience, willingness to ride alone or with family/friends, and the likelihood of making new trips for the new AV option from 51 participants. The researchers also analyzed trip data including trip origins and destinations, time of day, cost, travel time, wait time, and distance.
In addition to the surveys and trip data, two focus groups and a policymaker roundtable were held to gain insights on key questions that could further illuminate underlying motivations, attitudes, and perceptions that could drive the future of AV MOD services.
- Understand the importance of independent travel when designing an AV MOD service, especially for people with disabilities, older adults and low income households. The increased sense of independence with AV MOD service for the participants in this pilot resulted in their use of the AV service more frequently and going places they might otherwise not have. The ability to hail a ride from AV MOD service whenever needed instead of needing to schedule rides hours or even days in advance also helped increase the sense of independence.
- Ensure the availability of rider support to address any problems the users have. Sufficient customer support added to the high quality of the AV MOD service. Other potential improvements of an AV MOD service similar to the one tested should consider pick-up and drop-off locations, accessibility of the mobile app, and inefficient routing.
- Implement a fixed-cost per ride AV MOD model. Many of the participants that they were using the AV MOD service because they found it cost-beneficial. Riders also enjoyed not having to burden friends and family by having this alternative mode of transportation at an affordable price.
- Develop pilot projects to enhance existing public transit service and identify infrastructure needs. Increase accessibility using the MOD pilot project would enable riders to reach lower-density areas of their cities. It’s important to ensure that AV pilot projects helped communities understand better the required infrastructure needs, which will help the decision makers consider the types of projects they could fund based on current and future levels of funding.
- Explore additional AV MOD use cases and expand to other communities. Two criteria should be considered when exploring a variety of other demonstration projects: 1) the goal should not be to replace existing transit, but to complement it with new uses, and 2) AV technology should enable first/last mile connections to existing transit service, particularly to high-capacity transit corridors.
- Consider the use of AV shuttles. Since shuttles are larger in size, they would have more capability in transporting more people at cheaper price. This may make trips using AV MOD more desirable for those looking to save on costs. Certain areas with high demand may need vehicle fitting 8-12 passengers rather than 4-5.
- Consider solutions to assist users with handling packages. The pilot identified a need for assistance in boarding and alighting and particularly in loading and unloading packages, which would be infeasible with no human present on the vehicle.
- Add data-sharing in the development of the app for AV MOD. This would enable residents to access multiple modes such as light rail, bus, AV MOD, rideshare, e-scooters in one platform instead of multiple apps.