LIFE Research Area

Agent-based Traffic Modelling and Sustainable Mobility

Developments in the area of mobility are currently taking place against a general background of re-orientation in the field of transport. Mobility requirements need to be changed in ways that guarantee future sustainability and climate neutrality.

This re-orientation in the field of transport covers a wide range of changes such as, such as:

  • forms of propulsion (e.g. electric mobility),
  • changes in transport behaviour (e.g. the use of other forms),
  • organisational changes (e.g. a sharing economy),
  • the inclusion of socially disadvantaged groups (e.g. gender-responsive transport planning),
  • energy transition towards decarbonisation of transport (e.g. GHG balances, LCA considerations),
  • changing lifestyles (e.g. active mobility as a health factor),
  • changes in the use of public space (e.g. new distribution and strengthening of recreational functions).

The settlement structure of Austria presents a key challenge, particularly in rural areas. With respect to attaining climate neutrality in transport and mobility by 2040, the field of action available to the rural population is rather limited, at least if one assumes that change is to be achieved without calling for unacceptable effort or cost. As a result, a multitude of scientific questions arise, questions that all need to be addressed within a specific overall context.

Our research here focuses on investigating such complex relationships with the help of agent-based traffic modelling. This is based on the virtual test space of the 'LIFE mobility model - Carinthia' as well our skills in implementing agent-based models in other cities, regions and municipalities.

Agent-based Mobility Modelling by the Example of Carinthia:

View the simulation from the LIFE mobility model - Carinthia, which is based on the activities and the behaviour of road users in Klagenfurt between 3:00 a.m. and midnight on weekdays.

Agent-based Mobility Modelling

We provide sound expertise in modelling the transport behaviour of individuals, while also taking account of societal trends such as the increase in health awareness. By researching and developing realistic representations of transport systems in cities or regions, we can support decision-makers at all levels.

  • Agent-based Mobility Modelling for Emissions, Sustainability Monitoring and Assessments

A systemic approach is used to plan processes in the transport sector which are capable of incorporating  various climate and sustainability impacts. In parallel, research is continuing on the innovative '3+1 pillar method' of sustainability assessment (ecology, economy, social aspects and design) and on how it may be applied in transport-related assessment and monitoring.

  • Real-Time-Data-Integration

Dynamic traffic models are created and developed by drawing on external influences, e.g. social events, road closures, weather data and the resulting changes in mobility behaviour.

Current Research

Life Cycle Analyses of Mobility Services and Transport Systems

Life Cycle Assessment (LCA) is becoming increasingly important in the transport sector. The focus is primarily set on the drive technologies in the motor vehicle sector. In addition to the comparison of drive types with different fuels (petrol, diesel, eFuel), LCA analyses and assessments of electromobility (and of the associated chemistries and production methods) are all moving to the forefront of research.

Future fields of application are also arising in transport infrastructure in general. Besides environmental considerations, LCA analyses are increasingly serving as a basis for decision-making in this field as well. The potential field of application ranges from large-scale projects, such as the electrification of a railway line, to smaller projects, for example, a climate-neutral bus stop in public transport.

Mobility, Leasure and Tourism

Credit: iStock/imantsu

This might interest you:

LIFE researches how mobility may be improved, especially in tourism regions

Mobility and Lifestyles

Mobility plays an important role in any holistic view of lifestyle activity. Research in this area investigates both the impact of lifestyle changes on mobility, and how changes in mobility behaviour influence lifestyles. This then provides the basis for incorporating the parameters explored  in an agent-based model.

Active Mobility and Health

Active mobility includes all types of movement that are, at least partially, performed with muscle power. This includes walking and cycling in particular, but also the use of pedal scooters, skateboards and electric bicycles, etc. In addition to their low emissions, such forms of mobility also have health effects. The WHO recommends 150 to 300 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week for adults. Active forms of mobility help us meet such recommendations in daily life.

In urban areas, efficient settlement structures allow for accessibility to various forms of activity (work, education, shopping and errands, leisure, etc.). Such accessibility, together with well-developed public transport (which also has the positive side-effect of raising the public's resilience to unfavourable weather), is becoming an increasingly important factor in the quality of life within cities.

Over the past few decades, rural areas have been severely neglected in this respect. There is a lack of infrastructure (pavements and cycle paths), and in recent years shopping facilities have often been built on the outskirts of towns. The daily commuting distances of the rural population tend to be longer than those of the urban population, resulting in a higher affinity to motorised individual transport (MIV).

Promoting active mobility and its social acceptance also helps restore the social balance with respect to vulnerable groups in society. In contrast to private transport, walking is affordable for everyone. The fact that active mobility also addresses several of the UN's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) only serves to underline its importance.

Weather Dependency in Traffic

The weather influences people's traffic behaviour. This is reflected in the volume of traffic, in the choice of means of transport, destinations and routes, and also in the choice of departure times. Basically, the variability of behavioural change depends on the nature of the activity (or the transport purpose). For activities that can be postponed (e.g. leisure, shopping), a significantly higher level of variability is found than for work and education trips.

Global trends towards active mobility, reinforced by the knock-on effect of the COVID19 pandemic, mean that the transport system is becoming increasingly variable, especially in urban areas. This is shown by the fact that peak demand for public transport depends increasingly on the prevailing weather situation. In particular, extreme weather situations, which are partly a consequence of climate change, lead to peak loads in urban areas (as pedestrians and cyclists switch to public transport on these days). This poses new challenges in the dimensioning of transport infrastructure, as well as in transport modelling, and generates new research questions in the field of mobility.

Based on the agent-based traffic modelling pursued by LIFE, the weather dependency of the traffic system can be analysed in detail and reactions to adaptations can be evaluated. In this way, the potential effects of infrastructure decisions on trafficbehaviour can be analysed and recommendations for action derived.

Rebound in Mobility Innovations

Numerous mobility innovations that are currently being established on the market are subject to the risk of rebound effects. Rebound can undermine the positive effects of many mobility innovations.  For example, even where an innovation provides accessibility and mobility services in a more energy-efficient or environmentally friendly way, users may slowly adapt their mobility behaviour and consumption patterns and thus (partly) counteract any gain in ecological efficiency over the long-term.

Our research expertise in the field of rebound effects is therefore highly significant for funding programmes, policy strategies and innovation projects attempting to address the profound transformative impact of mobility innovations.

Current Research