Electric robot-driven cars could be here sooner than we think

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Robot-driven, electric taxis could be a way to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vehicles by up to 94% in coming years, two US experts say.

With Google announcing plans to release a fully self-driven vehicle by 2017, the authors of a study say robocabs could be here soon.

The study, published in the journal Nature Climate Change, is authored by Berkeley Lab (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory) scientists Jeffery Greenblatt and Samveg Saxena.

“When we first started looking at autonomous vehicles, 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,” says Greenblatt.

Many car makers and other companies are working on autonomous cars.

“Most trips in the US are taken singly, meaning one or two seat cars would satisfy most trips,” he says. “That gives us a factor of two savings, since smaller vehicles means reduced energy use and greenhouse gas emissions.”

They estimate that switching to autonomous taxis could result in per-vehicle emissions savings of 87% to 94% over conventional vehicles and 63% to 82% over hybrids in 2030.

Switching to battery-electric autonomous taxis could also reduce oil consumption because oil provides less than 1% of US electricity generation.

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