Driverless cars promise us safer roads, less traffic and to save energy, as major automakers and technology companies like Mobileye and Google pour money into developing autonomous vehicles, it’s time to ask if self driving cars will deliver on on these promises.
New research shows that, in the not so distant future, autonomous vehicles could actually make traffic worse and waste fuel. A study was published in the journal “Transportation Research Part A”, which looks at the energy efficiency pros and cons of autonomous vehicles, and was conducted by Wadud and colleagues at the University of Washington and Oak Ridge National Laboratory.
According to the findings people may forgo conventional means of public transport in favor of their own self driving car. People will be able to get work done from the comfort of their own car. This is why we could see levels of traffic actually increase, as well as fuel wastage.
“If you have self-driving cars, you can get work done in your car and you have the advantage of being in your own personal space,” said Zia Wadud, associate professor of engineering at the University of Leeds. “You could see a potential switch from other transport modes. In the United States, it’s probably aviation or in the Washington to New York corridor, it could be rail.”
The team found that, as people switch from public transport to their own cars, energy usage may actually increase from five to sixty percent. Self driving cars will have many more monitors and touch screens than today’s cars, these electronic demands may requite up to 11 percent more energy to run.
The research also showed that people who wouldn’t usually drive very much, such as those with disabilities or the elderly, may be on the road more, in automated vehicles. This could increase energy usage by as much as 10 percent.
Jeff Gonder, a transportation systems analyst at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Colorado Springs, believes that the benefits of self driving cars are still a big question and said, “If there are more cars on the road, but the train is faster, they will take the train. If they have trouble getting to the train and it adds a lot to their journey time, and can have an inexpensive automated vehicle chauffeur them door to door. They might do that.”
The future is by no means easy to predict, only time will tell how accurate this research is and if self driving cars will truly reduce traffic and energy consumption globally.