Will Self-driving Cars Impact the Long Term Investment Strategy for the Dutch National Trunk Road System?

Will Self-driving Cars Impact the Long Term Investment Strategy for the Dutch National Trunk Road System?


Remko Smit, Rijkswaterstaat Water, Traffic and Environment, Henk Van Mourik, 4cast, Marits Pieters, Significance


To prepare for the new government coalition, a study was done to investigate the long term infrastructure investment challenges. This paper describes the analysis that was executed to assess if self-driving cars could impact the investment challenges


The Netherlands have a long history of strategic planning for the national infrastructure. For the trunk road system as well as the rail system and the inland waterways, both for personal transport and freight. The current National Infrastructure Fund has budgets allocated for large national investments in the trunk road system, rail, and inland waterways up to 2030.
In March 2017 there will be elections in the Netherlands, and after that a coalition will be formed. In order to prepare the necessary information on the challenges the Netherlands face w.r.t. the long term investments in infrastructure, a comprehensive strategic study was executed called ‘the national market and capacity analysis’ (NMCA). In this study it was investigated wat challenges remain after implementing the projects that are defined in the current national infrastructure fund till 2030. Therefore forecasts were made for 2030 and 2040 in a high- and low economic scenario in order to get insights in the bottlenecks that will remain, or come up after 2030. The new long term scenarios that are used for this study are set- up by the PBL National Environmental Assessment Agency (PBL) and the CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis (CPB) in a different way than the previous ones that covered a wide bandwidth between the high and low scenario (see paper by H. Hilbers “An uncertain future caught in a workable bandwidth”, ETC 2015). The bandwidth between the high and low scenarios that were published autumn 2015 is smaller than in previous long term scenarios. The scenarios are to be combined with additional ‘uncertainty explorations’. One of the uncertainty explorations that was defined for NMCA was whether in 2040 the presence of self-driving cars and trucks could have an impact on the bottlenecks and hence the need to invest in the trunk road system.
In 2015 a preliminary study was undertaken to assess how the effect of self-driving cars and trucks on road capacity and congestion and the modeled choice behavior could tentatively be explored with the National Model System (NMS). In 2016 the proposed implementation was realized in the NMS that was released for use in the NMCA in November 2016.
This paper will describe how the potential effects of self-driving cars and –trucks were implemented in the NMS, how the scenarios were defined to execute the uncertainty exploration, which results were found form this analysis, and the conclusions that were drawn from this w.r.t. the investment challenges in the trunk road system for The Netherlands. First results indicate that both an increase in road capacity and a growth in car use, mainly kilometers traveled, can occur. Overall leading to a modest decrease in congestion and a slight increase in car use.


Association for European Transport