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Clean Power: Why a nature lover supports automated driving

"I couldn't exist without the mountains," says climbing ace Angelika Rainer.

Car emissions are a key factor in global warming. Automated driving could radically reduce these emissions. For ice climbing champion Angelika Rainer, it’s a matter of course to support the technology. After all, exhaust gases endanger the natural habitat she loves so much.

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Car emissions are a key factor in global warming. Automated driving could radically reduce these emissions. For ice climbing champion Angelika Rainer, it’s a matter of course to support the technology. After all, exhaust gases endanger the natural habitat she loves so much.

It’s those spectacular views that Angelika Rainer enjoys the most. When she climbs mountains where she comes from in South Tyrol, she always stops to take in the breathtaking scenery. Breathtaking but, sadly, not unspoiled. Especially in winter, the 29-year-old athlete contemplates the vista with mixed feelings. “When I look down into the valleys, I see a wall of smog,” Rainer says.

It happens right in front of Angelika Rainer’s eyes: the human influence endangers the natural beauty of the mountains.

Her mother took her hiking for the first time when she was still a toddler. Ever since then, Angelika Rainer has lived for the mountains. “I could not exist without them.” At the age of 18 she discovered ice climbing and instantly fell in love. “It requires so much athletic performance and self-discipline,” she says with enthusiasm.

She went on to become a master in her field. She has won the world championship three times and mastered some of the planet’s most difficult ice climbing routes – like the incredible ice cave at Helmcken falls, Canada.

From the canyons of Colorado to the icy mountain ranges of Korea: Angelika Rainer travels the world for her passion. At the same time, she aspires to pursue a sustainable lifestyle. Fittingly, she chose to study agricultural science. And fittingly, she drives a car powered by propane autogas. “To pursue my sport, I need to drive a lot. So it has to be environmentally friendly.”

However, she is still concerned about her CO₂ emissions. “I know it is a luxury to drive a car. There must be a way to further reduce my carbon footprint.”

The mission: Cut down CO₂ emissions

Indeed, mankind has reached a point where it is obvious that emissions must be reduced. We must act and we must act now.

Transportation is responsible for 30 percent of all emissions that cause global warming. It is also a major source of outdoor air pollution – which literally kills people. According to a 2015 study, air pollution causes some 3.3 million premature deaths worldwide each year. Since the global hunger for mobility is not likely to decrease, we are in dire need of innovative solutions. 

Infographic Clean Power
Click to view the infographic: how AD helps protect our planet.

This is where automated driving functions and self-driving cars come into play. They have the potential to cut down emissions significantly. Why? Because humans do not drive economically all the time. They tend to hit the brakes too much and accelerate too quickly – wasting gas and increasing emissions. An automated vehicle will optimize these driving patterns.

Once cars run fully automated, they will be able to communicate with each other. This will result in a much more synchronized traffic flow. Just imagine cars being able to smoothly and safely run almost bumper-to-bumper on highways, like one single, long train! Moreover, automated driving will reduce accidents radically. Take these two factors together and you will be able to finally defeat a significant cause for pollution: the traffic jam. 

Traffic jams: A major source of pollution

Traffic congestion is the environment’s worst enemy: stop-and-go traffic quadruples CO₂ emissions, a study by the International Road Transport Union has found. In the USA, drivers waste two billion gallons of fuel each year while stuck in gridlock, equaling over 15 million tons of CO₂. Automated and self-driving cars will undoubtedly take a big chunk of those emissions away.

But there’s more: driverless cars have the potential to eliminate the search for parking spaces. In congested urban areas, this tedious process is responsible for about 40 percent of total gasoline consumption, according to MIT Media Lab. Once cars are connected and autonomous, intelligent traffic guidance combined with automated parking systems will take care of this in an efficient manner. 

Finally, when we reach the point where cars will hardly have any accidents anymore, they will need less protection and can be a lot lighter weight. Lighter cars, of course, consume less fuel.

E-Mobility and fuel cells pave the way

All these facets of automated driving will have a huge impact on our environmental footprints. But what if cars were also powered by an electric motor? 

This could prove to be the perfect combination in the fight against greenhouse gas emissions. A report of the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab predicts a decrease of more than 90 percent in this scenario. Another viable alternative could be self-driving cars powered by hydrogen. Experts predict that those fuel cell vehicles could be ready for the mass market by 2030.

Angelika Rainer's message: cut emissions to preserve the outdoors
Angelika Rainer's message: cut emissions to preserve the outdoors!

Angelika Rainer knows just how urgently we need such innovative solutions. After all, global warming could even put an end to her greatest passion. “It’s painful for me to see how the ice on the mountains is gradually melting,” she says. “We need to act now! If automated driving reduces emissions – then I’m all in!”

Battling climate change through innovation - a promising approach? Share your opinion in the comments!

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