Transportation won’t look the same in the future as it does today. Autonomous vehicle technology will change the nature of car ownership, possibly decreasing the number of private autonomous vehicles on the roads and increasing the number of shared autonomous vehicles and on-demand vehicle-sharing services available in the marketplace. Public transportation will also feel the affects of AV (autonomous vehicle) innovation as buses, trams, and trains become increasingly equipped with self-driving technology and as more pilot projects prove the plausibility and benefits of these solutions.

According to a new report from Research and Markets, the AV market in North America is expected to exceed $52 billion by 2030, growing at a 17.1% CAGR (compound annual growth rate) between 2023 and 2030. Contributing to this growth, according to the report, are factors such as the need and desire for safe and efficient driving options, the evolution in connected car technology, increased research and development in the AV sector, and government support for next-gen vehicles and next-gen vehicle systems through policies and rebates.

Just how far into the future are autonomous transportation solutions? Most likely, autonomous vehicles won’t rule the road for several more decades, but that doesn’t mean some exciting pilot projects aren’t making this future seem closer and more achievable than ever. Via, a developer of on-demand shared mobility solutions, recently unveiled one such pilot—an autonomous vehicle service called BusBot. The AV program is now fully operational in New South Wales, Australia.

People in New South Wales can use the BusBot smartphone app to hail the autonomous BusBot and then board the driverless van and enjoy the ride to their destination. Advanced algorithms allow multiple people to share the driverless vehicle. Via says its technology directs passengers to nearby “virtual bus stops” for pick ups and drop offs and coordinates stops in realtime, allowing for efficient shared trips without lengthy detours, fixed routes, or schedules. A BusBot similarly serves a community of seniors at the Marian Grove Retirement Village in Coffs Harbour, Australia. During the pilot, seniors can access free rides on the autonomous public transit system.

This sort of reimagining of the old public-transport model is what companies like Via are trying to change using AV technology. What was once “a regulated system of rigid routes and schedules” can now be a dynamic, on-demand network. Shared autonomous transportation systems can accomplish the goal of getting multiple people to their individual destinations without each person needing to be in his or her own vehicle, thereby cutting down on road congestion and carbon emissions, without some of the hassles traditionally associated with public transportation—like inflexible routes and schedules.

On-demand mobility is where transportation is headed, but many years of piloting will most likely be necessary to get us there. The BusBot deployment is a great example of how technology companies are working with public and private sectors across the globe to build real-world solutions and put them to work in the real world.

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