Are autonomous vehicles the future of demand-responsive transit (DRT) ?

Evaluating test uses of autonomous vehicles by current DRT users in Rouen metropolitan area 

6t took part in the 2nd edition of the Francophone conference on Transportation and Mobility (RFTM – Rencontres Francophones des Transports et de la Mobilité), which took place on the 12th, 13th and 14th of June 2019  Polytechnique Montréal.
Within the thematic session “New mobilities and automated vehicles”, 6t’s team and Catherine Goniot (Deputy Director-General of the Public Spaces and Sustainable Mobility departement, Métropole de Rouen Nomandie) presented their evaluation of autonomous vehicle test rides taken by current users of local DRT services. This study was conducted from December 2018 to March 2019.


The potential advent and diffusion of an innovation such as autonomous vehicles doesn’t just depend on technological advances. In fact: the likelihood of having a novel gadget being adopted as an everyday service is contingent on 4 main groups of paradigms: technological advances and operational feasibility, individual preferences and practices, collective needs and political choices on a territory, to which potential use-cases come as answers (IDDRI, 2018). In order to conduct a relevant prospective work, it is necessary to assess the acceptability of autonomous vehicles by zooming in on a single use-case, which responds to a particular mobility need of a specific group of people in a defined context.

Issues at stake

One of the most promising use-cases of autonomous vehicles is demand-responsive transit (DRT). Currently, the flexibility of DRT (in terms of time and geography) is far from being optimal for users and implies significant costs for public authorities. The absence of driver and the connectivity to the user of autonomous vehicles might reduce costs and improve service flexibility, especially regarding the booking process.

The local authority (Métropole de Rouen Normandie) asked 6t to test this hypothesis by evaluating the acceptability of autonomous DRT in the eyes of current users of a DRT service on the territory (réseau Filo’R). To do so, 6t seized the opportunity of an on-demand pilot autonomous vehicle service currently deployed in Rouen (Rouen Normandy Autonomous Lab).


Qualitative methods were used, articulated around a complete test, from car hail to drop-off, of an autonomous car service used by 27 residents in the Rouen area who show a diversity of profiles. A two-part (pre- and post-experimentation) semi-structured interview accompanied the test.

To download the presentation of the results (in French), click the button below ⬇

A project sheet is available

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