LEVITATE: preparing Europe for a driverless future

Loughborough University is leading this £5.7m project to help European cities assess the future of driverless transport across the continent and plan in advance for the impact it will have on infrastructure and society.

The project, named Levitate, or Societal Level Impacts of Connected and Automated Vehicles, will look at how cities, towns, regional authorities and national governments can use technology, and create new systems to accommodate the forecast growth of driverless cars, busses, taxis and pods, as well as autonomous freight and logistics.

LEVITATE project website.

Predictions estimate that by 2030, 25 per cent of vehicles will be completely autonomous, with the remaining 75 per cent being classed as highly autonomous – able to steer, accelerate/decelerate and monitor the surrounding environment.

Principal investigator of Levitate Professor Pete Thomas, of Loughborough Design School, said: “The aim of the Levitate project is to help cities and regions to find the best ways to improve mobility through the increasing numbers of connected and automated vehicles.These vehicles bring new challenges and have the potential to disrupt mobility in both good and bad ways. Our job in Levitate is to provide a new scientific basis that will enable cities and regions to make policy decisions that are the best for each circumstance.”

Aimsun will be working alongside the Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT) to provide modelling capability to the project, involving forecasting and backcasting. Aimsun will provide a number of city simulation models and enhance them to allow impact assessment of a wide range of CAV systems that are likely to be deployed in automated urban transport, passenger car and freight scenarios over short, medium, and long-term time frames. These models will then be used by partners at Loughborough University, the National Technical University of Athens and the AIT, to provide input to the projects’ web-based decision support system for City planners.

Levitate’s four key objectives are:

  1. Create a web-based ‘toolkit’ which helps city planners forecast the impact of autonomous mobility and design transport infrastructure accordingly
  2. Develop transport infrastructure scenarios, based on mobility technology, for urban shuttles, passenger cars and freight services
  3. Establish a method for assessing the short, medium and long-term impacts of autonomous mobility systems on mobility, safety, environment, society and other areas
  4. Apply the methods and forecast the impact of driverless transport in a variety of environments

In preparation for the wide-ranging impact of the transition, Loughborough University will lead the three-year EU (Horizon 2020) funded programme which aims to assess the short, medium and long-term impacts of connected and autonomous vehicles (CAVS) on mobility, safety, environment, society and other areas.

LEVITATE: preparing Europe for a driverless future

The project will address a number of questions including:

  • How will autonomous vehicles improve safety, congestion and the environment?
  • What are the key policy decisions to maximise the benefits and minimise negative outcomes?
  • What are the mobility technologies that will give the greatest economic return?
  • What alternative methods can be used to achieve the benefits of autonomous vehicles but at lower cost?

Researchers will work with nine academic and research institutions from across Europe, Australia, China and the US, as well as Transport for Greater Manchester (TfGM) and the City of Vienna.Other supporting cities include London, Barcelona, Paris, Stuttgart, Berlin, Amsterdam and Gothenburg.

The 12 partner organisations are:

Loughborough University United Kingdom (lead)

Austrian Institute of Technology (AIT)


National Technical University of Athens

Cities and Regions for Sustainable Transport (POLIS)

Dutch institute for road safety research

Transport for Greater Manchester (TFGM)

Queensland University of Technology

Tongji University (TJU)

University of Michigan

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