Driverless taxis could lead to vast cost reductions, as well as a drastic cut in greenhouse gas emissions.
A team of researchers claims that the advent of driverless vehicles could reduce per-mile emissions of greenhouse gases. Scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) released a paper detailing their findings, according to Live Mint.
Driverless taxis could drastically cut emissions
The team found that in 2030 the per-mile greenhouse gas emissions of an electric driverless taxis would be 63-82% lower than a hybrid vehicle driven as a private car, and 90% lower than a gas-powered private vehicle.
Scientists attribute nearly 50% of the savings to ‘right-sizing,’ which refers to the act of sending a taxi of an an appropriate size to suit the needs of the occupants.
“When we first started looking at autonomous vehicles, we found that, of all the variables we could consider, the use of autonomous vehicles as part of a shared transit system seemed to be the biggest lever that pointed to lower energy use per mile,” said Berkeley Lab scientist Jeffery Greenblatt.
Autonomous vehicles are currently the subject of heavy investment from a number of technology companies and automakers. Right-sizing makes their operation more cost effective for both taxi companies and passengers, and researchers are looking into one- and two-seater models.
“Most trips in the US are taken singly, meaning one- or two-seat cars would satisfy most trips,” Greenblatt said.
Electricity to become greener in the near future
“That gives us a factor of two savings, since smaller vehicles means reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions,” said Greenblatt. Autonomous electric taxis will also be powered by a cleaner electric grid, which contributes to lower emissions.
Scientists believe that power plants will be cleaner by 2030, reducing the emissions from electric power. However electric vehicles will still be more expensive to run than gas-powered alternatives in 2030.
Privately owned cars travel an average of 12,000 miles per year in the U.S., and at this mileage an electric powered car will be more expensive. However between 40,000 and 70,000 miles per year, the average for a U.S. taxi, electric vehicles become more cost-effective than gas powered vehicles.
Although electric vehicles cost more upfront, fuel costs are reduced. It is believed that autonomous vehicles will cost around $150,000 more than manually operated alternatives, but taxi companies will save a huge amount due to the fact that there is no need to pay for a driver.