Virtual Reality (VR) in urban planning – a helpful use of technology to increase the acceptance of a reduction in car traffic

Climate change and the associated attempt to take appropriate measures in order to reduce global warming are omnipresent. One current issue in this context is car traffic, especially in large cities, which produces a lot of emissions and, thus, contributes to climate change. European cities want to reduce the dominance of motorized individual transport in order to combat the environmental problems associated with it, such as noise, air pollution and land consumption (SPIEGEL, 2022). The aim is to redesign public space to improve the quality of life, so that everyone ultimately benefits.

In this context, the acceptance of citizens is particularly important for the implementation of transport policy measures, as resistance may arise before or during projects (Bosch & Peyke, 2011; Huber et al., 2020; Pleger, 2019). Studies show that citizens are more open to transport policy measures if they create quality of life and quality of place (Andor et al., 2020; Wicki et al., 2021; Wicki & Kaufmann, 2022). It is problematic that in the early planning phases, the opportunities for influence are greatest, but the interest of citizens is lowest (Wolf et al., 2020). One reason for the low level of interest is the provision of comprehensible information, which is often characterized by complex plan drawings, image montages, graphics or texts in technical language that are difficult or impossible for non-experts to understand (Spieker, 2021; Wolf et al., 2020).

This is where new technologies come into play, such as virtual reality glasses, which can visualize measures and changes in the cityscape and make them tangible. Several studies have demonstrated the potential of simple immersion in various new reality scenarios without prior knowledge or experience (Lovett et al., 2015; Schauppenlehner et al., 2018; Schwarze et al., 2022; Sinning et al., 2023). Through these so-called immersive visualization technologies, every citizen can also be made privy to a project and their opinion can be sought, thus increasing the acceptance of the measures and changes.

Research Goal

The aim of a study conducted by Jasmina Rückle, a Master student in our Business Psychology Programme, was to analyze the impact of the use of immersive visualization technologies on the acceptance of a reduction in moving and stationary car traffic among residents and people in a suburban area. Empirically, there is a gap on the question of whether immersive visualization technologies (e.g. VR glasses) have a stronger positive influence on the acceptance of car traffic reduction than less immersive visualization technologies (e.g. a video on a smartphone). There is also a lack of information on the factors that influence immersion, which were investigated in more detail in this study.

Study Overview

The experimental study was conducted in an urban environment in Stuttgart with a representative group of 60 participants, consisting of local residents and people with a personal connection to the surrounding area. During the experiment, the participants were presented with different scenarios related to traffic reduction. Firstly, what the urban environment currently looks like, and secondly, what it could look like in the future with less car traffic. The experiment was conducted under three different conditions: a) interactive virtual reality, b) visualization of a VR video and c) presentation of a video on a smartphone. Acceptance of the traffic reduction and other relevant variables were measured before and after the exposure of the virtual presentation.

The survey data was recorded on a 5-point Likert scale from not at all (1) to completely (5). The 60 respondents, with an average age of 34 years, were 48% male and 52% female. The two largest groups of people were professionals (55%) and students (32%), all of whom had regular contact with the selected urban environment.

Main Findings

Acceptance of car traffic reduction:
The residents and people with a direct connection to the selected urban environment had a high acceptance of the reduction of moving and stationary car traffic. They particularly disliked the noise caused by the traffic.

Immersive visualization technologies:
After the manipulation with the VR interaction, the acceptance of reducing car traffic differed significantly between the scenarios of how the neighbourhood looks now and how it could look in the future. For example, acceptance increased with the help of immersive technology in the interactive VR scenario. This was not the case for the other two conditions (VR video and smartphone video).

In our study, the level of immersion (how much the respondent can immerse themselves in the scenario) had a strong positive influence on acceptance. Immersion can be further enhanced by increasing the user’s attention and cognitive involvement, which can be promoted by, for example, a high-resolution animated scenario and a situation in which the person does not feel observed. People with a strong spatial imagination also experience better immersion. On the other hand, technology affinity had no effect on perceived immersion.


From the study it can be concluded that it may be a useful method in future urban planning to use technologies such as high immersion VR glasses to allow citizens to immerse themselves in the scenario and thus increase the acceptance for changes. This can be used for future scenarios that are otherwise not directly tangible to citizens, which can be animated in a way that is close to reality. As we have demonstrated, interaction in virtual reality can increase the acceptance of reducing car traffic in cities, which would facilitate the implementation of climate-friendly measures. A VR or smartphone video does not increase this acceptance. A high degree of immersion is important. This can be further increased by high attention, cognitive involvement and strong spatial imagination of the person using the immersive technology.


Andor, M. A., Frondel, M., Horvath, M., Larysch, T., & Ruhrort, L. (2020). Präferenzen und Einstellungen zu vieldiskutierten verkehrspolitischen Maßnahmen: Ergebnisse einer Erhebung aus dem Jahr 2018. List Forum für Wirtschafts- und Finanzpolitik, 45(3), 255–280.

Bosch, S., & Peyke, G. (2011). Gegenwind für die Erneuerbaren – Räumliche Neuorientierung der Wind-, Solar- und Bioenergie vor dem Hintergrund einer verringerten Akzeptanz sowie zunehmender Flächennutzungskonflikte im ländlichen Raum. Raumforschung und Raumordnung | Spatial Research and Planning, 69(2), 105–118.

Huber, R. A., Wicki, M. L., & Bernauer, T. (2020). Public support for environmental policy depends on beliefs concerning effectiveness, intrusiveness, and fairness. Environmental Politics, 29(4), 649–673.

Lovett, A., Appleton, K., Warren-Kretzschmar, B., & Von Haaren, C. (2015). Using 3D visualization methods in landscape planning: An evaluation of options and practical issues. Landscape and Urban Planning, 142, 85–94. 

Pleger, L. E. (2019). Democratic Acceptance of Spatial Planning Policy Measures. Springer International Publishing. 319-90878-6

Schauppenlehner, T., Kugler, K., & Muhar, A. (2018). Anwendungserfahrungen von Virtual Reality als Kommunikationswerkzeug in partizipativen Planungsprozessen. Wichmann Verlag.

Schwarze, J., Vöckler, K., Hinde, S., David, E., Le-Hoa Võ, M., & Eckart, P. (2022). Virtual Reality im Mobilitätsdesign: Experimentelle Forschung zum Einsatz von VR-Simulationen. In P. Eckart, M. Knöll, M. Lanzendorf, & K. Vöckler (Hrsg.), Mobility Design (S. 198–215). De Gruyter. 

Sinning, H., Brandenburger, Y., Kruse, R., & Rogoll, S. (2023). Partizipative Stadtentwicklung mit XR-Technologie. Urbane Transformation als gesamtgesellschaftliche Aufgabe.

SPIEGEL. (2022). Barcelona, London oder Paris: Wie Europas Metropolen das Auto loswerden wollen. SPIEGEL Mobilität.

Spieker, A. (2021). Chance statt Show – Bürgerbeteiligung mit Virtual Reality & Co.: Akzeptanz und Wirkung der Visualisierung von Bauvorhaben. Springer Fachmedien Wiesbaden. 33082-8

Wicki, M., Hofer, K., & Kaufmann, D. (2021). Acceptance of densification in six metropolises: Evidence from combined survey experiments [Application/pdf]. 28 p. 

Wicki, M., & Kaufmann, D. (2022). Accepting and resisting densification: The importance of project-related factors and the contextualizing role of neighbourhoods. Landscape and Urban Planning, 220, 104350.

Wolf, M., Söbke, H., & Wehking, F. (2020). Mixed Reality Media-Enabled Public Participation in Urban Planning. In T. Jung, M. C. Tom Dieck, & P. A. Rauschnabel (Hrsg.), Augmented Reality and Virtual Reality: Changing Realities in a Dynamic World (S. 125–138). Springer International Publishing.

Will air taxis extend public transportation?

Cities and their surrounding areas have to face rising mobility and infrastructural challenges due to the increasing urbanization. Correspondingly, a new category for aerial vehicles and shared mobility concepts called urban air mobility (UAM) has emerged, offering a new dimension: the skyscape. Electrical Vertical Takeoff and Landing (eVTOL) aircraft, also known as air taxis, are considered the vehicle foundation of UAM. Air taxis provide a local, emission-free and infrastructure-conserving mode of transportation. For successful integration into the public transportation network, the intention to use and the willingness to accept air taxis must be present among potential users. Another important indicator for future infrastructure planning is the willingness to pay. Therefore, Hartmut Fricke, Robert Brühl, Laura Riza and Patrick Planing conducted a study that aims to investigate the willingness to use and pay for air taxis in various urban scenarios. This study was developed through an interdisciplinary research background and offers a first approximation for regular trips for each scenario.

Research Overview

The study, conducted in the greater Dresden area in Germany, integrates diverse research perspectives across different urban transport scenarios: societal acceptance, intention to use and willingness to pay. The data collection took place in the greater metropolitan area of the city, with a final sample of 1,074 participants. QR codes leading to a quantitative online survey were distributed to passersby at various locations within the city and on the outskirts to ensure that participants from different city areas were queried.
To ensure applicability in practical contexts, three scenarios meticulously drawn from real-life contexts were selected. One central factor that remained constant among the scenarios was that the air taxi covers the distance about 30 % faster than a car, conventional taxi, or bus and that there is less risk of delay due to external influences, such as congestion. Scenario 1 explored the utilization of air taxis as an individual transportation choice for a special occasion. Specifically, the application for a trip to an opera performance (“limousine case”). This scenario was chosen since the Dresden opera is among the most well-known operas in Europa and the most popular tourist location in the area. Scenario 2 examined an individual route from the respondent’s home to the Postplatz, a public square in the city center of Dresden (“taxi case”). Since the respondents reported their postal code, approximate distances to the location could be calculated for each scenario. In Scenario 3, the use of an air taxi as part of a fixed-schedule network was presented for a mid-distance flight in the larger city area (“bus case”).

Main findings of survey

  • Results indicated a restrained societal acceptance for air taxis among this sample in the greater Dresden metropolitan area.
    → Approximately half of the respondents indicated they do not want air taxis in Dresden in the future
  • Results indicated a restrained intention to use air taxis among this sample, with most respondents stating that it is unlikely they will use air taxis in the future.
  • Participants who would like to see air taxis in Dresden in the future would also be more likely to use them.
  • The intention to use air taxis in the future was highest in the limousine scenario and a similar intention emerged for the bus scenario. In the taxi scenario, the intention to use was lower.
  • The analysis revealed a significant difference in the intention to use air taxis between the limousine case and the taxi case, as well as between the taxi case and the bus case. No significant difference was found between the limousine and the bus scenarios. 
  • The PSM-light method was used to determine price willingness. For the limousine case, the computed willingness to pay is €30 per flight. In the second scenario, the taxi case, participants’ willingness to pay is €15, and for the bus case, it is €18. 


Overall, the data suggest that air taxis have not gained widespread acceptance yet, as approximately half of the respondents are not open to the idea of using them. The limited experience with air taxis, as they are not part of the transportation system, might contribute to the restricted acceptance of participants. Furthermore, the study reveals that people are more inclined to welcome the integration of air taxis into their cities if they perceive it as a technology they would use personally in the future. The scenario analysis revealed a greater inclination among respondents to use air taxis for special occasions compared to everyday commuting scenarios, indicating that people are more likely to consider air taxis for unique events rather than as a primary daily mode of transportation. Accordingly, consumers showed the highest willingness to pay in the limousine scenario. Based on this research, governmental authorities and industry stakeholders may consider the findings to develop a human-centered approach for future mobility and ensure successful implementation in the mobility networks of the future.
The complete study is available for open access in the Transportation Research Journal.