New report: How self-driving transport will affect the Oslo region


The first self-driving buses to carry regular passengers in the centre of Oslo started work a few weeks ago. We now know more about how the self-driving vehicles – and other technological mobility trends – will affect mobility in Oslo thanks to this study.

In just over a year COWI and PTV developed a transport model on behalf of Ruter, the public transportation company in the Oslo region. They used PTV software in combination with COWI’s in-dept knowledge of the current local traffic models to show how new technological trends will affect the Oslo region. The analyses show potential implications of a future dominated by driverless cars and ‘Mobility as a Service’ (MaaS) concepts.  “Self-driving technology will in itself not help us to achieve our climate targets or promote better urban development. But if we manage to use the technology to increase ridesharing and make traditional public transport more attractive, it will be an important part of the move towards more sustainable mobility in our cities,” says Øystein Berge, project manager for the Oslo study at COWI.

Paul Speirs, Director for Project Management & Services at PTV, explains: “It’s difficult to plan future infrastructure needs, especially when there is so much uncertainty around future mobility: For instance, will today’s car ownership be the same in the future? Will autonomous vehicles increase our desire to travel more? How quickly will society adopt autonomous vehicles? The PTV MaaS Modeller software allows us to simulate in parallel multiple combinations of assumptions which produce a range of future outcomes. When you understand the range of results and which assumptions have a greater or lesser influence on the outcome, stakeholders can make big decisions with increased confidence. This makes PTV MaaS Modeller software such a strong tool.”

Main scenarios

The report looks at four main scenarios where today’s passenger groups switch to shared, autonomous transport – both with and without ridesharing. All the scenarios examined are based on the morning rush hours during a working day in Oslo and Akershus. Here are some of the main findings of the analysis:

In all of the scenarios examined, the number of cars can be reduced by between 84 and 93 per cent.

  • If people in Oslo and Akershus all share cars and use ridesharing, 7 per cent of the cars on the road today will be sufficient to cover all journeys in the rush hours. In other words, 93 per cent of cars will be redundant.
  • The scenario that produces the biggest reduction in traffic is where users of public transport continue to do so while car-drivers switch to ridesharing. This will give a 14 per cent reduction in traffic.
  • Conversely, the volume of traffic would increase by 97 per cent if everyone who currently drives and everyone who uses public transport switched to car-sharing, but without ridesharing.
  • If the same group uses ridesharing, the volume of traffic will increase by 31 per cent.
  • If today’s public transport users switch to MaaS-based systems with ridesharing, their journey time will be reduced by an average of 11 minutes.
  • For private car-users, the average journey time will increase by 6 minutes without ridesharing and by 8 minutes with ridesharing.

Success will ultimately be dependent on good public transport

So, for today’s public transport users, the MaaS concepts could be attractive. This is the user group that will have its journey time reduced the most by switching to the autonomous MaaS concepts. But if everyone who now travels by tram and bus switches to shared cars without ridesharing, this will produce much more traffic than the roads have the capacity to handle. On the other hand, MaaS systems could make public transport, od which MaaS is a part, more attractive to people who currently drive their own cars.

Endre Angelvik, director for mobility at Ruter, the public transportation company in the Oslo region, believes that the findings from the study provide very valuable knowledge for people working on urban development and mobility. “We are moving rapidly into a future where new technological solutions could change both how we think about private transport and how we travel. We are pretty sure we will see more self-driving vehicles in our transport system in the near future, including in Oslo and Akershus. The question is how many of them, what impact they could have and how they could affect travel patterns and car use; that is why the study is so important.”

Very advanced modelling

“This is one of the most complex analyses ever carried out on this topic anywhere in the world. The level of detail in the report is very high. It is interesting that Ruter is investing in this sort of analysis”, says Berge. “In the past, only large organisations like the OECD have done similar analyses and modelling exercises. The fact that, in Norway, this is now coming from a public transport company clearly shows that they want to take a leading role in the development of future mobility,” he goes on.

Paul Speirs adds: “Oslo and Ruter are definitely leading the way. The platform that the COWI and PTV team has laid here provides Ruter the opportunity to ensure future mobility will be of benefit to citizens throughout the region. For us, it was also extremely exciting to participate in this study, to deepen our knowledge and to share the experience with others. Any city with a smart agenda should use this forward-looking evidential approach as a part of their toolkit to be equipped for future mobility themselves”.