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The Intersection Between Self-Driving Cars and Electric Cars

The Intersection Between Self-Driving Cars and Electric Cars

Cars have not been good for the environment, to put it lightly. Transportation accounts for 28 percent of US greenhouse gas emissions, and light-duty vehicles for more than half of those. Someday, self-driving cars will appear widely in the US. Wouldn’t it be nice if they also helped reduce greenhouse gas emissions?

Trouble is, making an electric car self-driving requires tradeoffs. Electric vehicles have limited range, and the first self-driving cars are expected to be deployed as roving bands of robotaxis, traveling hundreds of miles each day. Plus, the sensors and computers onboard self-driving cars suck up lots of energy—not great for range, either.

New research suggests that the tradeoffs for electric autonomous vehicles aren’t as painful as once thought—and indicates that AVs, whenever and wherever they show up, could contribute to the green-ing of the global car market.

In a paper published in the journal Nature Energy last month,

Self-Driving Tech Is Becoming a Game of Partnerships

Self-Driving Tech Is Becoming a Game of Partnerships

Building a self-driving car was never going to be easy. But Karl Iagnemma says he didn’t expect it to be this hard.

“Vehicles are these massively complex systems, and to [build self-driving cars], we need to integrate them with another very complex system and do it in a way that’s reliable and cost-optimized. It’s really, really hard,” says Iagnemma, the president and CEO of a joint venture formed in March between South Korea’s Hyundai and Aptiv, which designs automotive electronic systems. “I think that’s one of the things that most players in the industry underappreciated, myself included.”

That realization has led to a rash of partnerships between established automakers and self-driving startups. Think Aptiv and Hyundai; Waymo and Jaguar; General Motors and Cruise; Argo AI and Ford and Volkswagen. The Covid-19 pandemic has only heightened the need for partners, as venture capitalists tighten the purse strings on big bets like