Research suggests driverless cars may slow pollution | Smart Highways Magazine: Industry News

Research suggests driverless cars may slow pollution

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New research in America is “cautiously” suggesting driverless vehicles could help reduce overall fuel use, researchers cautiously predict.

Scientific American quotes  Jeffrey Gonder, a researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado as saying that the impact can be dramatic, but there remains a lot of uncertainty about it, “There needs to be further research to try to more intelligently understand where are the key tipping points in the evolution of the technology, so we can help encourage the beneficial impacts and mitigate the negative impacts,” he says.

The plan comes on the heels of President Obama’s call in his State of the Union address to reduce emissions in a “21st-century transportation system.”  The sector’s carbon footprint is second only to the power sector, contributing around 27 per cent of overall emissions in the United States in 2013, according to U.S. EPA.

American Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx announced Thursday the president’s upcoming fiscal 2017 budget proposal would include $3.9 billion over 10 years for automated cars.  The money would go to testing self-driving cars and other connected vehicle systems in designated corridors around the country.

“We are on the cusp of a new era in automotive technology with enormous potential to save lives, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and transform mobility for the American people,” Foxx said at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.  “Today’s actions and those we will pursue in the coming months will provide the foundation and the path forward for manufacturers, state officials and consumers to use new technologies and achieve their full safety potential.”

Scientific American says transportation experts have long modeled the many hypothetical ways in which connected, intelligent or driverless vehicles might cut back on fuel.  Cars that talk to each other can flow right by each other at intersections, avoiding stopping and starting.  Smart routing systems can make moving around more efficient, reducing congestion.  Vehicles driving directly behind one another because their systems are linked might reduce air drag by platooning.

When combined with other innovations in transportation, the benefits can be even greater, researchers suggested. Driverless taxis gained more attention when General Motors Co. in early January made a $500 million investment in the ride-sharing company Lyft to develop a network of autonomous, on-demand vehicles.


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