Combining 3 Vehicle Technologies Could Nearly Eliminate Auto Emissions

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An autonomous car made by Nissan-Renault. Credit: The NRMA Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

Combining 3 Vehicle Technologies Could Nearly Eliminate Auto Emissions

By Camille von Kaenel

The auto industry and researchers say this utopian view of transportation is on the horizon, and it could cut nearly all of the carbon emissions from the transportation sector. Maybe.

A new report today finds that layering the three vehicle technologies—autonomous, electric and shared—on top of one another could cut carbon emissions 80 percent by 2050 worldwide from a business-as-usual scenario.

Researchers at the Institute for Transportation and Development Policy and the University of California, Davis, modeled how each new development might change carbon emissions around the world.

“It’s becoming increasingly clear that all three of these possible revolutions are reaching maturity,” said Lewis Fulton, a co-director at the Institute of Transportation Studies at UC Davis and lead author of the report. “It’s time for all of us, whether we’re researchers or policymakers or the general public, to think more deeply about where these things seem to be going. In 10 years, it may be too late to change the trajectory. It’s the time now to figure out which trajectory is the best.”

While some transportation researchers have suggested autonomous cars could cut emissions by boosting driver efficiency, others, including Fulton and his colleagues, project that energy use and carbon emissions would increase over a business-as-usual scenario because more people will travel farther.

Emissions reduction comes only when the vehicles are electrified and plugging into an increasingly cleaner grid.

“We have to stop thinking that self-driving cars will automatically be sustainable,” Fulton said. “We need policies to make sure we steer this towards electric and efficient.”

...Read the full story at Scientific American