For many years, self-driving car technology was elusively beyond our reach. Bold predictions asideFully automated vehicles are still not in showrooms. However, technology looks poised to make a big leap in 2022.
Companies include Mercedes-Benz, BMW HondaThey are introducing so-called Level 3 Autopilots (AVs) that allow drivers to take the wheel under certain conditions. Virtually every major automaker is currently testing self-driving systems.
Automated vehicles offer great promise. Autos that are automated You can handle most, if not all, of the driving tasksCould be safer than human drivers, operate more efficiently, and offer new opportunities for seniors, disabled people, and others who are unable to 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 technology How consumers will likely use them. Our research teams discovered two innovative ways to assess the real-life effects that automated vehicles could have upon the environment in two recent studies.
We found that drivers will drive more if they have access to partially automated vehicles. This will increase transportation-related pollution and traffic congestion, unless regulators take steps to make car travel less appealing.
More Carbon Emissions, More Mileage
Research has suggested that automated cars could encourage people to drive more than usual. More congestion, more energy consumption, and more pollution. Passenger riding in a car is less stressful than driving. People might be more willing to endure longer trips and deal with more traffic if they have the opportunity to relax and do other things along the way. People could move further away from their jobs if they have a comfortable commute to work. This could help accelerate the growth of suburban sprawl.
People would also be able to send their cars on zero occupancy trips or run errands with no passengers. If you don’t want to pay for parking downtown you might be able to send the car home while you are at work and have it summoned when you need it. It’s convenient, but it also doubles the driving.
This could pose a problem. Transportation is already The United States 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 vehiclesIt is a critical strategy. What if automated vehicles technology makes it more difficult to achieve these goals.
The Real-World Environmental Impacts of Automated Cars
While 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. Two innovative methods were found to examine the real-world impact of automated vehicles.
In a mid-2021 publication, we conducted a survey of 940 respondents. Autonomous drivers. Systems like Teslas AutopilotThe ability to assist with driving tasks, and reduce the driving burden, is possible but not in the same way as fully automated vehicles.
Autopilot users drove an average of 3.2 miles per hour, according to our research. They travelled nearly 5,000 more miles annually than those who didn’t. Interviews with 36 partially-automated vehicle drivers revealed that they were more willing and able to drive long distances, as well as being more willing to wait in traffic. Increased comfort and lower stressSemi-automated systems are available.
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 Their vehicle miles traveled increased by 60%Their pre-chauffeur travel was significantly reduced, as they significantly reduced their use transit, bicycling, and walking. More than half the increase in vehicle travel was due to chauffeurs taking zero-occupancy trips, without any household members.
Limiting Pollution from Automated Car Use
These findings indicate that automated vehicles will encourage more driving in future, and that some partially automated vehicles are already doing so. Is it possible to reap its benefits without making climate changes, air quality and congestion worse?
Future automated vehicles must use zero-emission technology As California is doingThis can be a huge help. However, the U.S. will not develop this technology until then. 100% carbon-free electricityEven electric cars can emit some upstream emissions due to power generation. All car travel is harmful Other adverse effectsWater and air pollution due to tire and brake wear, collisions and wildlife encounters, and traffic congestion.
To stop an explosion in driving and the associated harms, regulators need to signal to communities that driving is not free. They could set a price for car travel, particularly for zero-occupancy trips.
The most important policies that have this effect are currently Federal and state fuel taxesThey currently average 49 cents per gallons for gasoline and 55 for diesel fuel. With the widespread adoption of electric vehicles, however, the impact fuel taxes have on drivers behavior will diminish. This means that the transportation industry will need to create new funding mechanisms to cover ongoing expenses like road maintenance.
Instead of fuel taxes, the federal and state governments could impose user fees or charges for the mileage that drivers drive. 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 depending on where they are located. For example, you might charge more to drive in dense cities centers. Other factors include time of day and traffic congestion levels. Vehicle occupancy and vehicle type may also be considered. Modern communication technologies allow for such policies by tracking the location and time of cars on the roads.
Another option is to promote shared fleets rather than privately-owned automated vehicles. These vehicles can be seen as commercial companies, similar in concept to Uber, Lyft or other ride-sharing providers. It could be possible to have a car on demand and serve travel demand more efficiently. These networks could be used by riders to access fixed-route public transportation services, which operate on main transportation corridors.
These policies will be most effective when they are implemented now before automated vehicles become widespread. Although a future in transportation that is automated, electric, and shared could be sustainable, it is unlikely that it will happen by itself.
Original version of this article appeared on The Conversation.