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Environmental Impact autonomous vehicles…not what you expect?

Environmental Impact autonomous vehicles…not what you expect?

A study published in the journal Transportation Research Part A revealed that self-driving cars could increase congestion and even reverse the Environmental benefits they promise to bring, which may be a surprise to many.

Developers of self-driving vehicles, such as the Google car, claim they will improve traffic flow and save Energy by consigning traffic jams to history.  But new research suggests many people may actual ditch public transport in favor of this new technology to get them effortlessly from A to B.

Cars will be available to everyone while with the risk of accidents virtually being eliminated speed limits could increase using up more energy. And freight could be shifted from the railways to lorries.

Associate professor Dr Zia Wadud in the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Leeds in the United Kingdom says: “There is no doubt that self-driving cars offer several efficiency benefits. If you could multi-task in your car, by say work, relax and even hold a meeting in your car that changes how you use it. “That, in turn, may change the transport equation and the energy and Environmental Impact of road transport. “When you make a decision about transport, you don’t just think about the out-of-pocket costs of the train ticket or the car’s petrol; you also take into account non-financial costs.”

The study looked at how various technologies would impact the US by mid century: more efficient computer-directed driving styles could lead to a 20% reduction in energy use while improved traffic flow and reduced jams may lead to a 4% reduction in energy use. Cars driving in convoys could create aerodynamic energy savings of between four per cent and 25% while lighter vehicles could save between five and 23%.

There would also be less risk of accidents and there will be less emphasis from car buyers on high performance reducing energy use of up to 23%.

But these very benefits could lead to an increase in the popularity of driving, meaning more cars on the roads and a five to 60% increase in car energy consumption.  Assistant professor of civil and environmental engineering Don MacKenzie at the University of Washington added: “There is lots of hype around self-driving cars, much of it somewhat utopian in nature. “But there are likely to be positives and negatives. “By taking a clear-eyed view, we can design and implement policies to maximize the benefits and minimize the downsides of automated vehicles. “Vehicle automation presents a paradox: it may encourage people to travel much more, but at the same time it makes it practical to implement tools such as road pricing that can offset those effects.

“Ultimately, however, it’s up to the government to set appropriate policies to manage these impacts.”

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