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How Self-Driving "Robocabs" Can Revolutionize Transportation

  • Posted by Peter Glatzer on July 7, 2015 in Transportation
  • Fully automated electric taxis could dramatically reduce transportation sector's emmisions, a new study finds.  By Lindsay Abrams

    The energy efficient cars of the future will allow the transportation sector to lower its greenhouse gas emissions not just because they’re electric — but because they’ll also be driverless.

    That’s the forward-looking conclusion of a new study in the journal Nature Climate Change, which takes a look at the potential for fleets of different-sized, self-driving electric taxi cabs to take to the streets, dispatched by a computer system that could match them with the ideal number of passengers to maximize efficiency (no more single riders zipping downtown in SUVs). If the technology allows it, and people can be convinced to give up their private cars for on-call “robocabs,” the researchers believe we could reduce conventional car travel’s contribution to climate change by up to 94 percent by 2030.

    “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,” study co-author Jeffery Greenblatt, of the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, said in a statement.

    It makes sense: efficient as vehicular transport may be for the individual trying to get somewhere quickly, comfortably and with all her stuff in tow, anyone who’s ever been caught in rush hour traffic can attest that the way we use cars is wasteful. In the U.S. in 2009, 62 percent of the total vehicle miles traveled involved single drivers in cars built for additional passengers; matching passengers with cars sized to fit their needs, Greenblatt explains, ”gives us a factor of two savings, since smaller vehicles means reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.” MORE

    Photo Courtesey of: Sergey_R/Shutterstock


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