Automated Mobility Conference: meet Keynote Speaker Yann Leriche from Transdev North America

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We’re just three weeks away from the first Automated Mobility Conference (Brussels, 24 October). Dedicated to perhaps the most game-changing innovation in urban mobility today, this one-day event will explore the latest developments in automated vehicles (AVs) and how fleets of AVs can be integrated into public transport.

During the day, we’ll hear from leading international experts from across the sector, who will share AV strategies of global cities and provide exclusive insights from running shared AV initiatives worldwide.

To give you a sneak peek into what you can expect, we’ve sat down with our keynote speaker Yann Leriche, CEO of Transdev North America & Head of Autonomous Transportation Systems. Early this year, Yann published the book Piloter le véhicule autonome : Au service de la villetogether with Jean-Pierre Orfeuil, Civil Engineer at Mines ParisTech and Doctor of Statistics at the Pierre and Marie Curie University. The book is a first critical analysis of autonomous vehicles and dives deep into the topic of how AVs have the possibility to change our societies – no one better to provide us with some AV insights than its co-writer!

You recently published a book on automated vehicles, what is the key message you would like to convey?

The message that I would like to convey is that autonomous vehicles are both an opportunity and a risk. New technologies are not good or bad per se. What matters is what we do with them. Unregulated, autonomous vehicles could lead to longer travel times and extended urban sprawl. If well managed, they can make shared trips more convenient and affordable, reduce accidents, enable disabled & elderly people to travel better, and free all of us from spending hours behind a wheel, focused on the road in front of us.

New technologies are not good or bad per se. What matters is what we do with them. 

Unfortunately most cities are still built to move around cars, not people. This makes issues such as congestion a big problem. How do you think automated vehicles will change this?

Congestion is the result of an imbalance between the demand and the supply of road space. An autonomous car will most probably consume less road space, as it will be able to shorten the following distance with the vehicle in front. But the number of cars on the road might increase, as autonomous vehicles will be more convenient to use than standard ones. This is a perfect illustration of the previous point: AVs can have positive or negative impacts, depending on the ways we will use and regulate them. 

How do you see the role of public transport in the automated mobility revolution?

Public transport will continue to play a key role, especially in dense areas: there is nothing more efficient than putting many people in a large vehicle to optimise road space, reduce congestion and gas emissions, and enable urban dwellers to efficiently reach their destinations. This is not a question of technology, but of vehicle size. In less dense areas, public transit has a different mission, which is to provide motorised transportation to all. Autonomous shuttles will be a new option available to help fulfill this mission. 

There is nothing more efficient than putting many people in a large vehicle to optimise road space, reduce congestion and gas emissions, and enable urban dwellers to efficiently reach their destinations. 

What is the biggest challenge we still face before automated vehicles can be truly implemented?

The main challenge to broad adoption of autonomous vehicles today is still the technology: it does not yet provide enough value for the money, compared to the existing mobility solutions, to be relevant in most use cases. 

If you could provide cities and urban planners with one advice about implementing automated vehicles, what would it be?

I would advise them to use the framework we propose in the book to analyse and prepare the advent of autonomous vehicles. AVs are a new option within existing mobility solutions, for existing cities and regions. They cannot be analysed in a stand-alone manner, without a structured approach. The book aims to provide cities and urban planners a rigorous analytical framework and methodology for assessing the potential benefits and risks and making decisions.  It is based on five pillars: 1) Technology – 2) Regulation – 3) Uses – 4) Systems & Services – and 5) the unique aspects of different Territories/Regions.  These can be summarised by the acronym TRUST.  

Finally, what do you expect from the Automated Mobility Conference, and can you give us a sneak peek into your keynote speech?

I will share my enthusiasm about the opportunities offered by the AVs. I believe we can harness the potential of AVs to improve city life and ensure more appealing, equitable and sustainable urban environments.  I will also give a few concrete examples of their possible negative effects if they are not introduced, managed and regulated carefully. Mobility is a complex field that needs to be well-integrated with urban planning and urban economics. Ignoring the fundamentals of these disciplines can only lead to disappointments, inequities and missed opportunities.

You can find the full programme of the Conference, and how to register, on the website.

Register now!

Have you already heard about SPACE (Shared Personalised Automated Connected vEhicles)? Launched in 2018, SPACE is UITP’s flagship project aiming to place public transport at the centre of the automated vehicles revolution and help build a combined transport ecosystem.  

Coordinating on-demand ride-sharing with scheduled public transport is key to keeping the public sector sector relevant in context of the autonomous vehicle revolution – check out the training on on-demand buses and shared services (12-13 December)!

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