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How Self-Driving Taxis Will Change the Way We Drive

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Jeff Greenblatt and Samveg Saxena - Sustainable Energy Systems Group, Energy Technologies Division - Berkeley Lab.
Research team Jeff Greenblatt (L) and Samveg Saxena (R) of Berkeley Lab.

Self-driving taxis are in the future, according to researchers at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

Not only will these electric vehicles be environmentally friendly, they will also be cheaper than the current system. Emissions from self-driving cars are reduced even when compared to owner-operated hybrid vehicles.

Autonomous, or self-driving vehicles, are under development by many companies, and the researchers urge that these companies should focus on smaller models. While many sizes of autonomous car will be needed to accommodate everyone, most car trips in the United States are taken by one or two people. Vehicles made for these passengers will be smaller, and can save a lot of money and use a lot less energy.

In the future, the self-driving electric car of 2030 would consume 90 percent fewer fossil fuels than a non-hybrid car released in 2014, and 63 to 82 percent fewer fossil fuels than the projected capabilities of a owner-operated hybrid car.

The benefit of these cars will change the taxi industry first, since the autonomous taxis of 2030 will only be more cost-effective than fossil-fuel-operated vehicles if driven 40,000 to 70,000 every year, which is only usual for taxis.

The analysis of Berkeley Lab researchers Jeff Greenblatt and Samveg Saxena was published online last week by Nature Climate Change.

The two researchers did not even add in the energy savings from other features of autonomous vehicles, such as the ability to drive closely behind other cars to lessen wind resistance, take the shortest route to a location, and accelerate and break in the most fuel-efficient way.

Hopefully by 2030, taxi companies will have fully taken advantage of the potential savings opportunity presented by these electric cars, and the future of green transportation in cities will be fully realized.

Image (c) Roy Kaltschmidt/Berkeley Lab

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