Autonomous Shuttle-as-a-Service (ASaaS): Challenges, Opportunities, and Social Implications

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Modern cities are composed of complex socio-technical systems that exist to provide services effectively to their residents and visitors. In this context, smart mobility systems aim to support the efficient exploitation of the city transport facilities as well as sustainable mobility within the urban environment. People need to travel quickly and conveniently between locations at different scales, ranging from a trip of a few blocks within a city to a journey across cities or further. At the same time, goods need to be timely delivered considering the needs of both the users and the businesses. While most of the

mobility and delivery solutions can cover significant distances and multiple requests, they suffer when the requests come from the growing neighborhoods and hard-to-reach areas such as city centers, corporate headquarters, and hospitals. In the last few years, several cities indicated interest in using Autonomous Vehicles (AV) for the "last-mile" mobility services. With them, it seems to be easier to get people and goods around using fewer vehicles.

In this context, Autonomous Shuttles (AS) are beginning to be thought of as a new mobility/delivery service into the city center where narrow streets are not easily served by traditional buses. They allow them to serve critical areas with minimal new infrastructure and reducing noise and pollution. The goal of this article is to present an innovative vision on the introduction of

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the Autonomous Shuttles-as-a service (ASaaS) concept as the key pillar for the realization of innovative and sustainable proximity mobility. Through a set of real application scenarios, we present our view, and we discuss a set of challenges, opportunities, and social implications that this way to reimage the mobility of the future introduces.