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Report suggests 60%+ particulate matter emission and energy consumption reductions from self-driving.

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Chinese self-driving study claims huge environmental benefit

A new study from China has concluded that self-driving could reduce both emissions and energy consumption by more than 60%, potentially increasing to 76% if combined with vehicle electrification.

Discovered as part of our pledge to focus more on the environmental impacts of self-driving, the “Energy and environmental impacts of shared autonomous vehicles (SAVs) under different pricing strategies” paper was published by Nature in February, in partnership with the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT).

Self-driving emissions reduction

Designed to help transport authorities gain a deeper understanding of future trends, the report’s lead author was Dr Shaopeng Zhong, of Dalian University of Technology.

“The introduction of vehicle automation, shared mobility, and vehicle electrification will bring about changes in urban transportation, land use, energy, and the environment,” it begins.

“However, existing research on estimating the energy and environmental effects of shared autonomous electric vehicles generally ignores the interaction between land-use and transportation systems.

“Under an appropriate pricing strategy, SAV deployment could reduce particulate matter emission and energy consumption by 56–64% and 53–61%, respectively. With the further introduction of vehicle electrification, these can rise to 76% and 74%.”

Double-edged sword

The report goes on to describe SAVs as a double-edged sword, because “On the one hand, SAVs can save energy and reduce emissions by, for example, promoting transportation efficiency, increasing road capacity, mitigating congestion, reducing accident frequency, matching vehicle sizes to trip requirements and eco-driving.

“On the other hand, SAVs can lower people’s marginal travel costs and make the locational decisions of residents and enterprises more free, leading to urban sprawl and increased travel time, distance, and frequency.”

The team therefore compared various SAV development scenarios for Jiangyin, a region of China at the forefront of self-driving, before concluding that: “An appropriate SAV fare can play an integral part in promoting sustainable development. Pricing policy will affect public acceptance of SAVs and is also an important means of realising effective SAV.”

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Author: Neil Kennett

Neil is MD of Featurebank Ltd. He launched in 2019.