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Driverless cars are not good for the environment if it leads to more auto use

Driverless cars are not good for the environment if it leads to more auto use

Driverless cars wont be good for the environment if they lead to more auto use
Self-driving car technology has been tantalizingly elusive for many years. Bold predictions notwithstandingFully automated vehicles are still not in showrooms. The technology is poised to take a leap forward in 2022.

Companies that include Mercedes-Benz, BMW HondaLevel 3 AVs, which allow drivers to operate the vehicle under certain conditions, are being brought to market by automakers.

Automated vehicles offer great promise. Vehicles that can be automated You can handle most, if not all, of the driving tasksThey could be safer than human drivers and operate more efficiently, opening up new opportunities to seniors, people with disabilities, and other people who can’t drive. However, attention has been drawn to the fact that it is not difficult to understand why. Safety firstThe potential environmental effects of automated vehicles have been largely ignored.

We study Automated vehicle technologies How consumers will likely use them. Our research teams have found two creative ways to assess real-life environmental impacts of automated vehicles in two recent studies.

We were able to analyze the driving habits of partially-automated vehicles and simulate the impact of future driverless vehicles. Our results showed that both types of automated vehicles will encourage more driving. This will increase transportation-related pollution and traffic congestion, unless regulators take steps to make car travel less appealing.

More miles means more carbon emissions

Research has suggested that automated cars could encourage people to drive more than usual. More congestion, energy consumption, and pollution. It is much easier to ride in a car as a passenger than driving. This means that people may be willing to take longer trips and fight more traffic if there are other activities they can do during the trip. A comfortable, relaxed commute to work could encourage people to move further from their workplaces, and even accelerate suburban sprawl trends.

People would also be able to send their cars on zero occupancy trips or run errands with no passengers. You might find it convenient to have your car returned home while you’re at work, so you can park it downtown and get it back when you need. It’s convenient, but it also doubles the driving.

This could become a major problem. Already, the transportation sector is The US is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions. California, for example, has made it clear that they are pursuing aggressive climate change mitigation plans. Reducing the miles people drive by using less vehiclesThis is a crucial strategy. What if automated vehicles technology makes it more difficult to achieve these goals.

The real-world environmental effects of automated cars

We and other researchers have These outcomes could be predicted using modelingHowever, they have not been verified by anyone because fully automated vehicles aren’t yet commercially accessible. We discovered two innovative ways to make use of currently available technologies to study real-world effects of automated cars.

We surveyed 940 respondents in a study published mid-2021. Autonomous drivers. Systems like Teslas AutopilotWhile they can assist with driving tasks, and lessen the burden on the driver, it is not as efficient as fully automated vehicles.

Autopilot users drove an average of 3.2 miles per hour, according to our research. Nearly 5,000 miles more per year than those who did not. Interviews with 36 semi-automatic vehicle drivers revealed that they were more likely to sit in traffic and take longer trips because of the technology. Increased comfort and less stressSemi-automated systems provide this service.

In a separate study that was conducted in late 2019/early 2020, we also simulate the functioning of a fully automated vehicle. 43 households were provided with a chauffeur service and tracked how they used it. These households They increased their vehicle mileage by 60%They travelled significantly less than before they were chauffeured and walked a lot more. More than half the increase in vehicle travel was due to chauffeurs taking zero-occupancy trips, without any household members.

Automated car use can be a major pollutant.

These results show that partially-automated vehicles are driving more now than they were in the past. Is it possible to reap its benefits without making climate changes, air quality and congestion worse?

Future automated vehicles should use zero-emission technology As California is doingThis can be a great help. However, until the US develops further, a 100% carbon-free electricity systemEven electric cars will emit some upstream emissions due to power generation. And all car travel is harmful Other harmful effectsWater and air pollution due to tire and brake wear, collisions and wildlife encounters, and traffic congestion.

To stop an increase in driving and other harms, regulators and communities must send signals that driving is not free. They could do this by putting a price on car travel — particularly on zero-occupancy trips.

See Also

The most important policies that have this effect are currently Fuel taxes – federal and stateFuel taxes currently average at around 49 cents per gal for gasoline and 55c per gallon diesel fuel. However, the impact of fuel taxes will decrease on drivers behavior as electric vehicles are more widely adopted. This means that transportation will need to find new funding mechanisms to cover ongoing costs such as maintaining roads.

State and federal governments could introduce user fees or charges to pay for the number of miles drivers travel. Correctly pricing private vehicle travel costs could encourage travelers to use less expensive and more efficient modes of transportation, such as walking or bicycling.

These fees could be adjusted based on location — for example, charging more to drive into dense city centers — or other factors such as time of day, traffic congestion levels, vehicle occupancy and vehicle type. Modern communication technology can track where and when cars are driving on the roads, enabling such policies.

Singapore uses electronic pricing to manage traffic flow and reduce congestion. The cost of entering the restricted zone varies depending on where you are and when you go. (Calvin Chan Wai Meng via Getty Images)

Another option is to promote shared fleets rather than privately owned automated vehicles. These companies could be commercial, similar to Uber, LyftOther ridesharing providers. It is possible to have a car on demand and serve travel demand better by having it available. These networks could also be used to help riders access fixed-route public transport services that operate along main transportation corridors.

All of these policies are most effective if adopted before automated vehicles become commonplace. A transportation future that is automated, electric and shared could be environmentally sustainable — but in our view, its unlikely to evolve that way on its own.

[Editor’s note: For further reading, checkout reporter Sophie Burkholder’s report on the potential large-scale environmental impact of autonomous vehicles, with a focus on Pittsburgh AV companies.]


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