Political Leaders recognize the role of researchers at the 3 Revolutions Future Mobility Center

majority staff report

In the majority staff report, political leaders recognize the importance of ensuring that Autonomous Vehicles reduce Carbon Dioxide emissions. 


Building Block: Ensure Autonomous Vehicle Technology Reduces Carbon Dioxide Emissions 

Scholars at the University of California-Davis have identified “Three Revolutions” occurring simultaneously in the transportation sector—shared mobility, electrification, and autonomous vehicles (AVs)—that have the potential to fundamentally reshape how people move from place to place1. If deployed with smart policy guardrails, AVs that are shared and electric have the potential to significantly reduce carbon pollution and vehicle miles traveled2. Poor implementation, however, could lead to a nightmare scenario where widespread adoption of single-passenger, gasoline powered AVs increase vehicle miles traveled and emissions. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) introduced a bill, the Preparing Localities for an Autonomous and Connected Environment (PLACE) Act (H.R. 2542), to study the social and environmental impacts of AVs. The bill would establish a federally funded clearinghouse at a higher education institution to collect, conduct, and fund research to understand how AVs will affect land use, transportation, municipal budgets, the environment, and social equity. Automakers, tech companies, and rideshare companies are investing heavily in autonomous vehicle technology, but federal governance has failed to keep pace to ensure these vehicles are safe and a net benefit for the climate.

Recommendation: Congress should direct the EPA and DOT to conduct a study to develop a national autonomous vehicle strategy focused on climate change to complement ongoing federal efforts to develop strong safety standards.

Committee of Jurisdiction: Energy and Commerce

The transition to a zero-emission vehicle fleet will not happen overnight. Even after every car sold is zero-emission, it would still take 10 years for the fleet to reach 70% ZEV and 15 years for the fleet to reach 90% ZEV 3. Some parts of the transportation sector may rely on alternative fuels for the long term. Congress should consider opportunities to use low-carbon fuels, with appropriate guardrails to prevent conversion of non-agricultural lands into cropland, to shrink the carbon footprint of internal combustion engine vehicles.

Read the full report here 

  • 1. University of California, Davis, “3 Revolutions,” https://3rev.ucdavis.edu/. Accessed June 2020
  • 2. Caroline Rodier and Julia Michaels, Travel Effects and Associated Greenhouse Gas Emissions of Automated Vehicles, A White Paper from the National Center for Sustainable Transportation (2018).
  • 3. 3 Center for American Progress analysis of Trieu Mai et al, Electrification Futures Study: Scenarios of Electric Technology Adoption and Power Consumption for the United States (National Renewable Energy Laboratory, 2018) available at https://www.nrel.gov/docs/fy18osti/71500.pdf. (Specifically, Maximum Technical Potential scenario). As cited in John Podesta, Christy Goldfuss, et al, A 100 Percent Clean Future (Center for American Progress, 2019) at 31.