Autonomous Shuttle-Fleets for Cities

 

The Ford Alliance Project Autonomous Shuttle-Fleets for Cities is a cooperation between Ford Motor Company and RWTH Aachen University. The project was supported by Ford form April 2017 until March 2019. Here, additionally to our chair, the Chair of Operation Research as well as the Chair and Institute of Urban and Transportation Planning are involved. The wide expertise of all participants results in a lot of synergy effects and thus several questions according to autonomous shuttles can be answered.

Such a shuttle fleet has the potential to decrease traffic congestion in city centers by substituting individual traffic but simultaneously increasing the mobility of all inhabitants. Operating such a fleet causes several optimization problems in design and management. In this project, we focus on operational tasks as well as strategic tasks.

For example we develop advanced dispatching algorithms, do path-calculations with energy constraints or investigate optimal reallocation strategies. On the other side we are interested in the development of pricing mechanism and auctions. For example we analyze the impact of pricing on ride sharing to the behavior of the customer. Which price policy will give incentives to usage of such kind of services?

One aim of this project is to develop a transport model for the region of Aachen that integrates this prospective service as an addition to public transport. A first step is to simulate the demand of this new traffic mode in each iteration of the simulation (Click for more details). Therefore, a synthetic population is generated. Afterwards the simulation will perform the tasks of the shuttle fleet according to our algorithms. As a consequence, the customer can evaluate the service of the fleet such that we can validate our performance and prices. Hence, this simulation is a great tool to observe the performance of an autonomous shuttle fleet based on real data of Aachen.

Our results to several of the above mentioned questions are presented in the comprehensive case study for the Städteregion Aachen (Click to access the final project report). Within this report one can find our implemented dispatching concept as well as a detailed analysis of the behavior of the customer in the interplay with a simulated ride-sharing provider.