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,