A new study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley has shown that switching to a transit system based on driverless vehicles could cut greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90 percent.
Of all the greenhouse gases emitted in 2013, transportation accounted for about 27 percent. As more people across the world purchase cars and begin driving, that number is only slated to increase. A new study from the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, however, shows that there may be a solution to the problem of excessive pollution from motor vehicles.
The study sought to determine how many reductions could be achieved by new driverless cars and found that it could put a significant dent in emissions from the transportation sector. Per-mile greenhouse gas emissions from an autonomous electric vehicle by the year 2030 would be up to 82 percent lower than a 2030 privately-owned hybrid vehicle, and almost 90 percent lower than a 2014 gas-powered model.
Not only would the reductions come from new designs that use fewer fossil fuels, but also from the efficiencies created by ride sharing. Sharing vehicles keeps drivers off the road, which leads to lower emissions rates.
According to scientist Jeff Greenblatt, driverless vehicles as a piece of the shared transit system would provide the biggest reductions in energy use per mile.
Many automakers are experimenting with autonomous cars alongside continuing improvements to the country’s electric grid. As it becomes easier to charge electric cars reliably and store power for longer journeys, it makes traditional combustion engines seem like a bad idea.
The average privately owned car in the U.S. travels about 12,000 miles per year. Autonomous cars as a part of a shared transit fleet could travel up to 70,000 miles each year – on a per-mile basis, it is a serious reduction in the energy needed to make those trips.
The study also stated that there could be serious economic benefits achieved by switching to self-driving vehicles. It might not happen over night, but we could start to see more autonomous vehicles on the road quite soon.