The fully autonomous vehicle (driverless, SAE Level 5) holds enormous promise for greater safety and greater efficiency for personal, private travel (household vehicle, robocab). This efficiency may apply to personal time, family expense, environmental harm, reduced congestion, fewer parking bays, lower crash costs, more livable urban design, lower household ownership, and many other anticipated effects.

While reliable advanced driver assistance systems (ADAS, SAE Level 3) appear to be on the horizon for general availability by 2020, the likelihood of pervasive, Level 5 technology for general availability and all-roads access appears to be further out—after 2040 or even 2050. This is due to numerous extra-vehicular reasons, and provides an opportunity for transit operations to take a lead.

Already, Level 5 technology can be deployed to considerable advantage if constrained to managed use on precisely mapped routes, reserved lanes, low speeds, scheduled operations, controlled situations, and carefully prepared (groomed) routes. Such deployments would amount to a new kind of transit.

This has been demonstrated in several EU cities (see the CityMobil2 image from the 2015 demonstration in Trikala, below). It has also been deployed in the Netherlands using a 6+6 person shuttle (initially with stewards) moving people along public roads from a university to a populated town 11km away (WEpod).

These systems can be deployed now in constrained circumstances for first/last mile applications around existing transportation hubs in Ontario. They could be deployed strategically to reduce driving to transit stations, parking at the station, from stations to close-by shopping or campuses and numerous other small-radius applications (~5km2). This would be an excellent application for a public-private partnership, and could promote social equity far more than either personal ownership or corporate robocab deployment of fully autonomous vehicles.

FOR STORY GREECE DRIVERLESS BUS BY DEREK GATOPOULOS - In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, the tiny CityMobil2 driverless bus drives along a road in Trikala town, Greece. Trials of the French-built CityMobil2 buses have started in Trikala, a town of some 80,000 people, chosen to test a driverless bus in real traffic conditions for the first time, as part of a European project to revolutionize mass transport, guided by GPS, lasers, and wireless cameras, and the rides are free. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

FOR STORY GREECE DRIVERLESS BUS BY DEREK GATOPOULOS – In this photo taken on Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015, the tiny CityMobil2 driverless bus drives along a road in Trikala town, Greece. Trials of the French-built CityMobil2 buses have started in Trikala, a town of some 80,000 people, chosen to test a driverless bus in real traffic conditions for the first time, as part of a European project to revolutionize mass transport, guided by GPS, lasers, and wireless cameras, and the rides are free. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

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