Today I have the huge privilege of sharing the findings from the MERGE Greenwich project. This 12-month study developed and tested blueprints for an autonomous vehicle ride-sharing service which integrates with public transport.

The 80-page report from MERGE Greenwich, which shares lessons learnt and puts forward recommendations to help realise the vision for this new mode of transport in the UK, was presented to an audience of over a hundred Government officials and industry leaders this morning.

The MERGE Greenwich consortium was set up and led by Addison Lee and involved mobility experts from Ford, TRL, Transport Systems Catapult, DG Cities and Immense Solutions. Backed by funding from Innovate UK (an agency sponsored by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy), the consortium explored how autonomous vehicle ride-sharing could reshape urban mobility, developing in-depth research and a sophisticated transport simulation based on the Royal Borough of Greenwich.

I was delighted to be asked by Addision Lee to act as project manager for this initiative and enjoyed co-presenting its findings and key recommendations today, alongside Paul McCabe, director of corporate development at Addison Lee Group. If AV ride-sharing were introduced in London, we found benefits to the city and its citizens could include

  • by 2025, one in four of all public transport journeys being made by AV ride-sharing
  • a reduction of up to 43% in journey times between homes and existing public transport hubs such as tube and rail stations, saving an average commuter 3.5 days a year in travel time
  • the ability to repurpose thousands of car parking spaces as trips requiring parking could fall by up to 38%
  • substantial consumer and social benefits, especially for elderly, infirm and disabled members of the community who currently find accessing public transport problematic
  • different levels of service and vehicle type – for example some services would have an on-board steward to assist passengers with mobility issues.

The findings from this project emphasised the importance of all sectors working together to ensure that potential hurdles – relating to policy, operation, finance, infrastructure and customers – are dealt with, in order to avoid possible unintended consequences (such as a large shift from existing public transport use). To this end, MERGE Greenwich is calling on the Government to set up a City Mobility Task Force to develop strategic policy, set goals, recommend changes to street infrastructure and provide roadmaps for the introduction of AV ride-sharing services.

Equally important, says the report, Government and industry leaders must to take steps to build public confidence in both AVs and ride-sharing. Challenges facing the adoption of AV ride-sharing include the public’s nervousness about sharing a vehicle with strangers: only 46% of those who took part in the research indicated a willingness to do so at present.

The innovative multi-modal modelling tools developed by MERGE Greenwich for this study are available for other organisations who may wish to carry out their own research into the feasibility of AV ride-sharing services in their own areas. The tools can readily be tailored to their specific needs, for example using different pricing structures, restricted operating networks, alternative traffic speed and flow blueprints, etc. Contact me on if you’d like to know more about this.

The full report from MERGE Greenwich can be viewed here: