Climate Change, Energy Innovation, Environment, Machine Learning & AI, Sustainability
Four Environmental Benefits from Autonomous Cars
Autonomous cars can navigate without human involvement and have the capability to sense their surroundings. These vehicles are also known as robotic cars, self-driving cars, or driverless cars. At this time, fully autonomous cars are not legal for operation in the US. Some vehicles have partially autonomous features, such as lane and brake assistance. Consider the following environmental benefits from autonomous cars:
Researchers from the Union of Concerned Scientists have defined 5 levels of autonomy regarding vehicles and their self-automation capabilities.
- Level 0 – People control every aspect of the vehicle systems
- Level 1 – Vehicle has brake assistance or cruise control (controlled singularly)
- Level 2 – Automated steering and acceleration (functions simultaneously)
- Level 3 – Mostly self-driving, but human controls systems when notified
- Level 4 – Completely automated vehicle works in only some situations
- Level 5 – Fully autonomous vehicle able to drive in all circumstances
The US Dept. of Transportation Federal Highway Administration reported that the three major reasons for nonrecurring congestion are 25% from accidents, 10% from work zones, and 15% from weather conditions. Congested roadways impact the environment, and accidents are a main cause of traffic jams. With more autonomous cars on the road, traffic accidents are expected to decrease, positively impacting the environment by reducing traffic congestion.
Traffic congestion from cars and trucks is responsible for 80 percent of greenhouse gas emissions in the United States. As vehicles sit in a standstill on the roadways in congested traffic, they are emitting an increased amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) gases, which is detrimental for the environment. Automated vehicles are designed with onboard and foundational artificial intelligence (AI) technologies to ensure enhanced traffic flow as the cars keep moving through the congestion.
As autonomous cars enhance traffic flow, they will also deliver better fuel consumption through eco-driving features. These cars are aerodynamically designed to be lightweight, which make them more fuel efficient; plus, they emit less greenhouse gas emissions. When AI controls the acceleration and deceleration of the vehicle, less energy is lost. The automated car will accelerate and decelerate at precise levels to maintain an even energy flow, unlike people who tend to speed up or brake too quickly.
Vehicle to vehicle communication in autonomous cars will be possible in the future with wireless technology that enables them to communicate so that traffic flow is enhanced and less congestion is created. These cars will operate through intelligent technology that enables them to transmit pertinent information up to one hundred meters to other vehicles regarding their location, traveling speed, braking status, and steering-wheel position.
It’s exciting and interesting to watch the technology behind autonomous cars evolve, as these vehicles will have excellent positive impacts on the environment and will be effective at reducing our carbon footprint.