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Scientists: Driverless cars could lower emissions

AD may help limit pollution, researchers say. (Photo: Tyssul Patel/unsplash.com)

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Researchers envision various ways in which automated driving may help protect the environment.

One of the fundamental goals of automated driving - cutting back carbon dioxide emissions - may be within reach in a driverless future. According to scientists, overall fuel consumption may decrease as vehicle automation progresses. This could ultimately reduce the carbon footprint of the transportation sector, according to an article by the Scientific American.

The article quotes various experts detailing how intelligent vehicles might contribute to the protection of the environment. Most importantly, communication between vehicles and infrastructure can help ensure a smoother traffic flow and reduce braking and accelerating. But the experts see some great opportunities beyond that.

The deployment of automated vehicles in car-sharing and in the ride-hailing business may also cause a drop in fuel use: "When you increase the occupancy of a vehicle, the emissions and fuel use overall are going to be split over those individuals, hence they are going to be lower," said Susan Shaheen, transportation expert at the University of California, Berkeley.

Moreover, "autonomous vehicles can accelerate or enable the greater use of electric," said Jeffery Greenblatt, energy researcher at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. According to him, people might be more inclined to buy an electric car if it can take care of battery charging by itself.

However, researchers also emphasize that a lot more research has to be done in order to maximize the positive effects of AD on emissions: "The impact can be dramatic, but there remains a lot of uncertainty about it," said Jeffrey Gonder, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado.

Read the full Scientific American article here.

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