Self-driving cars technology has been elusively at the horizon for years. Bold predictions notwithstandingFully automated vehicles are still not in showrooms. However, technology looks poised to make a big leap in 2022.
Automated vehicles offer great promise. Vehicles that can be automated Most or all of the driving duties can be handledThey 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 is important. Safety is our main focusThe 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 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 miles equals more carbon emissions
Research has shown that automated vehicles could make people drive more than they do now, according to previous research. 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 more willing and able 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 help 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. Transportation is already The leading contributor to U.S. greenhouse gases emissions. California, for example, has made it clear that they are pursuing aggressive climate change mitigation plans. Reduce the number of miles people drive in their vehiclesIt is a crucial strategy. What if automated vehicle technology makes these goals more difficult?
The real-world environmental impact of automated cars
While we and other researchers have These outcomes were predicted by 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.
We surveyed 940 people in a mid-2021 study. Autonomous drivers. Systems like Teslas AutopilotCan assist with driving tasks, and reduce the driving burden, but to a lesser extent than 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 are available.
In a separate study that was conducted in late 2019/early 2020, we created a simulation of the functioning of a fully automated vehicle. We provided 43 households in Sacramento with a chauffeur service and tracked how they used it. These households They increased their vehicle mileage by 60%Their pre-chauffeur travel was significantly reduced, as they used transit, bicycling, and walking much more often than they did before. More than half the increase in vehicle travel was due to chauffeurs taking zero-occupancy trips, without any household members.
Automatic car use is a way to reduce pollution
These results show that automated vehicles will encourage more driving in the future, and that partially-automated vehicles are already doing so. Is it possible to reap the benefits of these vehicles without making climate change, air pollution, and congestion worse?
Future automated vehicles should use zero-emission technology California is doing it!It can be a great help. However, until the U.S. develops, a 100% carbon-free electricityEven electric cars can produce some upstream emissions from power plants. And all car travel causes 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 isn’t free. They could put a price on car travel, especially on zero-occupancy trips.
These policies are the most important. Fuel taxes – federal and stateThey currently average 49 cents per gallons for gasoline and 55 for diesel fuel. However, the impact of fuel taxes will decrease on drivers behavior as electric vehicles are more widely adopted. This means that the transportation industry will need to create new funding mechanisms for 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 can encourage travelers to look into other, more cost-effective modes of travel, such as walking and bicycling.
These fees can be adjusted depending on where you are, for example, by charging more to drive into dense urban centers, or other factors like time of day, traffic congestion levels and vehicle type. Modern communication technology can track where and when cars are driving on the roads to enable such policies.
Another option would be for automated vehicles to be shared rather than privately owned. These vehicles could be viewed as commercial companies similar to Uber, Lyft, and other ride-sharing services. 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 along main transportation corridors.
These policies will be most efficient if they’re implemented before automated vehicles become commonplace. Although a future in transportation that is automated, electric, and shared could be sustainable, it is unlikely that it will happen by itself.[Understand new developments in science, health and technology, each week. Subscribe to The Conversations science newsletter.]
Giovanni CircellaDirector, 3 Revolutions Future Mobility Program University of California, Davis Scott Hardman, Professional Researcher, Plug-in Hybrid & Electric Vehicle Research Center University of California, Davis