The following is an excerpt from Justin Worland | September 8, 2016 | Time.com |
Researchers are hoping to shape the policies that will determine the environmental impact of automated cars
Self-driving vehicles promised to revolutionize the transportation industry. Automated cars could reshape every industry that relies on the automobile, from car manufacturing, to taxis, limousines and trucking. By taking human beings—who aren’t the drivers they think they are—out from behind the wheel, self-driving cars could also save millions of lives.
Self-driving cars will also have a profound effect on the environment—but whether it’s for better or for worse will depend on technological and policy choices that have yet to be made. Automated vehicles could reduce energy consumption in transportation by as much as 90%, or increase it by more than 200%, according to research from the Department of Energy (DOE). That difference matters—more than a quarter of greenhouse gas emissions come from the transportation sector, according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). “The impacts if you look into full vehicle automation could be huge,” says Jeff Gonder, a transportation researcher at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). “Hugely positive or you could have huge increases in energy use.”
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