An Autonomous Modular Mobility Paradigm

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In the United States, public transit vehicles have a very low average load factor (10.1-12.4%), resulting in an excessive waste of seat capacity and poor fuel economy per passenger mile served. This problem is gravely exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, which at its peak had caused more than 70% reduction in transit ridership nationwide. On the other hand, the rapid uptake of e-commerce, also accelerated by the pandemic, has put tremendous pressure on last-mile delivery. A co-modality system that integrates transit services with last-mile logistics offers a promising solution to better utilization/sharing of vehicle capacity and supporting infrastructure. Here we show such a system may be implemented based on Autonomous Modular Vehicle Technology (AMVT). At the core of AMVT is the ability to operate a fleet of modular autonomous vehicles or pods that can be moved, stationed, joined, and separated in real time. Coupling modularity with autonomy is poised to enable co-modality and beyond. We describe an AMVT bimodality system that provides integrated public transit and last-mile logistics services with a fleet of pods and discuss relevant research challenges and opportunities, research approaches, and real-world adoption issues.




Lin, J., Nie, Y. M., & Kawamura, K. (2023). An Autonomous Modular Mobility Paradigm. IEEE Intelligent Transportation Systems Magazine, 15(1), 378–386.

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