Having previously focussed mainly on technical solutions, in the past year Volvo Buses has conducted two scientific studies on user experience in collaboration with Chalmers University of Technology.
Just as "boring" as a riding a regular bus
The participants were interviewed by the
researchers and asked to answer a questionnaire. The results show that
most participants thought it was a very positive experience and that the
bus ran safely, smoothly and comfortably. Those who were initially
uncomfortable with not having a driver behind the wheel, quickly adapted
“When the participants saw how the bus regulated speed and acted in
relation to other road users, it became normalised very quickly. Some
even thought it was a bit boring after a while, just like a trip with a
regular bus,” says Joakim Jonsson, Project Manager Autonomous Research Projects at Volvo Buses.
The passengers saw many potential benefits with self-driving buses
Many passengers saw several potential benefits to having autonomous
buses in public transport, including better comfort and increased
safety. But they did not think that their own commuting would be
affected if all standard buses were replaced exclusively by self-driving
“In the study, it became very clear that it is not whether the bus
is driven by a person or if its autonomous that determines how commuters
view public transport. The most important thing is that you can get
from one place to another as smoothly as possible,” says Mikael
Johansson, Chalmers researcher in the project together with Fredrick Ekman.
At the same time, several participants believed that self-driving
technology could be used to develop new services for improving public
transport, such as more flexible stops and greater accessibility in
sparsely populated areas.
“Many had very insightful thoughts about this. These answers show
how important it is not look at autonomous technology as an end in
itself, but as something that can enable other services that commuters
need,” says Mikael Johansson.
Ekman and Mikael Johansson researches user understanding of
self-driving vehicles. They conduct their research at the division of
Design & Human Factors, department of Industrial and Materials
Image: Marcus Folino
For Volvo Buses, the passenger study provides important insights
into the autonomous journey. “The feedback from commuters confirms that
we are on the right track and focusing on the right things. With
autonomous solutions, we can contribute to creating a future transport
system that is both sustainable, efficient and safe,” says Joakim
Passenger acceptance for self-driving vehicles is crucial
One of the newly published studies, planned and conducted by the researchers at Chalmers, studied how bus drivers respond to driving with a concept for autonomous driver support. In the other study, the focus is instead on passengers.
“In order for us to be able to take advantage of the benefits of autonomous buses in the future, passenger acceptance is absolutely crucial. We need to know what they think about the experience, if they feel safe and if self-driving buses are something they could consider using. As far as we know, no similar research has been done with full-length buses, which makes this study extra exciting,” says Joakim Jonsson.
The study was conducted with a self-driving electric bus on a test track. 22 people of different ages who use public transport daily, got to experience how the bus handled nine different traffic situations – everything from driving in a roundabout and picking up passengers at a stop, to driving in close proximity to passing cyclists, pedestrians and cars.
“We thought it was very important to include several everyday traffic situations in the study, since we have in earlier research seen that much of users’ experience when using automated vehicles is effected by how it acts in relation to other road users. Something we also saw in this study”, says Mikael Johansson.
More about the study
The study Passengers’ Experience of Travelling with a Full-Length Automated Bus and Expectations of the Future Public Transport System was initiated by Volvo Buses and Västtrafik and conducted by researchers at Design & Human Factors at the Chalmers University of Technology. The research project is part of Drive Sweden's project KRABAT project, which is partly finances by Vinnova and The Strategic vehicle research and innovation programme (FFI). A scientific article will be published based on the results. Please contact the researchers for mor information.