Can you imagine a future where driverless electric vehicles are commonplace?
Infrastructure Victoria has just released its evidence base for the Automated and Zero Emission Vehicle Advice (AZEVIA) to the state government. It’s a report that could influence the future of transport and the face of our cities.
The report contemplates scenarios where driverless vehicles, powered by battery, electric or hydrogen fuel-cell become part of the transport system. We modelled three relevant scenarios for the final report.
- Analysis of travel behaviour and the impacts on the transport system.
This scenario utilised the KPMG’s Melbourne Activity and Agent Based Model (MABM).
The behavioural impacts of new technologies, including automated vehicles, mobility as a service and zero emission vehicles are profound, with fundamental implications for how we travel and where we choose to live and work. These reflect the radical shifts in how our cities looked and felt after the mass take-up of new transport technologies such as passenger rail and trams after the industrial revolution, and the automobile after World War II.
Some of the scenarios modelled included mass take-up of on-demand automated taxis (like self-driving Ubers). In the future, people may choose to forego car ownership entirely as the modelling reveals the annual cost of using automated taxis is cheaper than car ownership. These scenarios also saw a major shift towards public transport and active modes, as people relied on a mix of automated taxis, trains, trams, buses, and walking to complete their daily activities.
One of the largest impacts is the ability for connected automated vehicles to ‘platoon’. Automated vehicles are able to follow each other with very short distances between them, increasing the effective capacity of roads (especially freeways) substantially. With a large proportion of traffic as automated vehicles, platooning could make much better use of existing road assets; with the ability to potentially defer additional investment on roads.
- Impacts on the Victorian energy markets
With the cost and demand for energy high on the government’s agenda, the future demand for energy is an important part of any new transport system.
The introduction of automated and zero emission vehicles to the road network will create a significant need for additional electricity generation capacity to service increased energy demand from vehicle charging. This may more than double the current capacity in Victoria. It is critical for governments and regulators to consider the impact of automated and zero emission vehicles in their future system planning including the significant need for new electricity generation to support increased demand.
Potential impacts to the distribution network are likely to differ at the ‘street level’ with localised impacts to the streetscape where charging infrastructure is installed as well as the capability of existing distribution equipment. Distribution networks will need to focus their efforts on identifying network ‘hotspots’ that are likely to be placed under stress from increased energy demand and automated vehicle fleet owners will have to carefully consider where they place depots when installing a large amount of charging equipment.
It is likely that many vehicle owners will charge their vehicles when they arrive home from work, leading to a spike in electricity demand in the early evening, a time that already experiences high demand. One solution is for networks to incentivise consumers with cheaper electricity rates or other benefits at certain periods of the day to manage peak load. Not only could this reduce energy bills for vehicle owners, it may materially reduce the level of infrastructure investment required for the electricity network.
- Financial impacts and policy implications for government
The shift to automated and zero emissions vehicles will have significant implications for governments and consumers. All driverless and electric vehicle adoption scenarios assessed in the report projected significant net reduction in government revenues, ranging from between $5 billion in 2030/31 to $13 billion per annum in 2045/46 (total impact across all levels of government).
An analysis of vehicle lifecycle ownership costs projected that in 2046, automated electric vehicles will be the lowest cost fuel source option for the average Victorian who uses their vehicle to drive 15,000 kilometres per annum. For the average Victorian who drives 15,000 kilometres per annum, using a fleet style automated vehicle service will be approximately 40 percent cheaper than to own their own vehicle.
The adoption of automated and zero emission technology will lead to greater uncertainty around the potential transport and economic impacts of transport infrastructure projects. These technologies could evolve rapidly, and have complex and unpredictable effects on consumer behaviour during this adoption period.
It is important government recognises this uncertainty and incorporates it as a core part of its business case analysis as it plans for the future.