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Transportation AI Earth Technology

Autonomous Cars Could Be Worse For Carbon Emissions 265

HughPickens.com writes: David Roberts writes at VOX that it stands to reason that vehicle automation could save energy and reduce emissions in some ways. Cars will be able to chain together more aerodynamically, drive at more consistent speeds, and perhaps serve as shared vehicles in lieu of individual vehicle ownership. But it also stands to reason that automation could increase energy use and emissions in some ways. If driving is easier and more pleasant, people will do it more. Automation will open up car travel to populations (the young, the elderly, the visually or otherwise impaired) who did not previously have access. Self-driving cars could increase the overall amount of vehicle miles traveled. (Read more, below.)
Hugh Pickens continues: A new study: "Help or hindrance? The travel, energy and carbon impacts of highly automated vehicles," suggests that the big swing factor is travel cost reduction — in other words, how cheap and easy driving gets. If that stays at the low end, then the effects of self-driving cars on energy use are almost certain to be a substantial net positive. However if it reaches the high end, a 60 percent boost in energy consumption for transportation, all the energy-saving benefits could be wiped out, for a net increase in energy and emissions. "This leads to somewhat surprising policy implications It may be that the socially optimal outcome, at least for now, is partial, not full, automation. That way the energy and emissions benefits of smarter driving practices can be fully captured, without allowing drivers to tune entirely out — without making it too easy," concludes Roberts. "Perhaps when we get farther down the road (ahem) — when more vehicles are electrified, when car sharing is more firmly established, when the benefits of automation have proven out — we can move to full automation without the risk of carbon blowback."
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Autonomous Cars Could Be Worse For Carbon Emissions

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  • What about this.... (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Let's say 1 million people die or are maimed all over the world thanks to human driven cars. How much "carbon emissions" will be caused by all the
    funerals, ambulance trips, etc. this entails? Couldn't we say autonomous cars will "save" on "carbon emissions" due to avoiding 1 million
    such experiences?

    Don't let this click bait headline fool you.

    Just my $0.02.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:19PM (#51609487)

      How much "carbon emissions" will be caused by all the funerals, ambulance trips, etc. this entails?

      Not nearly as much as those 1 million people would have created had they lived out the rest of their natural lives. The fact they were killed prevents enormous quantities of greenhouse gas emissions going forward.

      • Not to mention the jobs those corpses created.

        And freed up.

        • You sound like an opportunist.

        • Not to mention the jobs those corpses created.

          If the corpses are embalmed and buried, they would be a net carbon sink. If they are cremated, the carbon would be returned to the atmosphere, at least until crematoriums adopt CSS [wikipedia.org].

          • by Sique ( 173459 )
            Actually, the corpses are not much of a carbon emission problem, as they bound the carbon they emit during cremation just a few years ago. That's quite different from burning fossil carbon which was taken out of the atmosphere 200 million years ago.
        • -1 Ignorant about economics.

          The more people you have participating in an economy, the larger the economy is, the more wealth is created, and the more jobs there are (all other things being equal).

          Dead people are bad for an economy, period. If the uber-capitalists really wanted to promote capitalist economies, they should be pouring money into research for life-extension and anti-aging therapies and technologies, plus of course way of increasing fertility and getting people to have more kids. However, havi

          • Dead people are bad for an economy, period. If the uber-capitalists really wanted to promote capitalist economies, they should be pouring money into research for life-extension and anti-aging therapies and technologies, plus of course way of increasing fertility and getting people to have more kids.

            Sounds to me like the very definition of a Ponzi scheme. Oh, wait... I guess that's how our economy already works [globalresearch.ca].

    • by Passman ( 6129 )

      Let's say 1 million people die or are maimed all over the world thanks to human driven cars. How much "carbon emissions" will be caused by all the funerals, ambulance trips, etc. this entails? Couldn't we say autonomous cars will "save" on "carbon emissions" due to avoiding 1 million such experiences?

      But you have to also take into account the extra million carbon emitters that you will now have annually. That's a million more people eating food, a million more using electricity, a million more sources of methane, etc. Eventually that will add up as well.

    • by slew ( 2918 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:26PM (#51609537)

      Let's say 1 million people die or are maimed all over the world thanks to human driven cars. How much "carbon emissions" will be caused by all the
      funerals, ambulance trips, etc. this entails? Couldn't we say autonomous cars will "save" on "carbon emissions" due to avoiding 1 million
      such experiences?

      Don't let this click bait headline fool you.

      Just my $0.02.

      On the flip side if we didn't eliminate 1 million people from the *future* driving pool by killing or maiming them with human driven cars, couldn't we say that by the impact of their collective future driving trips, autonomous cars (by sparing lives) will cause more emissions in the future?

      Think of it kind of like why we have a hunting season for deer. Since humans have eliminated many of the predators at the top of the food chain, if we don't cull the herd, the deer often face a future of starvation (e.g., they use more resources than the environment can support).

      Although we could potentially limit driving more humanly by say a lottery for people that are allowed to drive rather than simply off-ing a million folks (then again, in most states there is a lottery for deer hunting licenses, so maybe it's not totally different). They already do something like a lottery in many congested cities like Mexico City (odd-even), Beijing (mod 5), and New Delhi (even-odd).

      • I can't tell if you are proposing a Hunger Games or Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Either way, that's messed up, man. That's messed up. I'm in.
        • by slew ( 2918 )

          I can't tell if you are proposing a Hunger Games or Shirley Jackson's The Lottery Either way, that's messed up, man. That's messed up. I'm in.

          Wasn't going for the "tribute" or "sacrificial offering" angle, but if people think making sacrifices to the global warming gods they appear to worship for something as banal as more driving privileges would be entertaining, who am I to stop them... But I'm not buying that lottery ticket ;^)

      • by KGIII ( 973947 )

        In most areas that I've hunted, bucks just require a license - unless they don't have enough. Does require a separate license, that is granted by lottery, everywhere that I've hunted but not all the bucks. Some other animals require winning a lottery to get a tag. Moose and bear spring to mind as those seem to always require a lottery, though some may not even allow them to be hunted.

        I have not hunted everywhere but I might have hunted in "most" States - I'm not actually sure. I've hunted in quite a few of

    • Well obviously a million people dead means significantly lower carbon emissions as they will no longer laugh, play, love and all of the other things that emit evil carbon

      Win-Win!

    • by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @03:12PM (#51609891) Journal

      Don't let this click bait headline fool you.

      Truth. Vox dot com is a garbage media source. They specialize in these "hot takes" that always end up to be shallow Freakonomics horseshit. "Gee, some studies suggest smoking may actually be good for you!" or "Why do so many successful people drink water?"

      I'm not saying it's because Vox is made up of a bunch of 20-something journo students who couldn't find jobs anywhere else, or that it's because Ezra Klein was one of the founders. It might be something else.

      Vox likes to set up their stories as "explainer cardstacks" (yes, this is a term of art). It means basically great big graphics with no indication of data sources and video. And they wrap it all up in ugly typography and web design that makes it one of the least pleasurable spots on the Internet. Don't believe me? See for yourself. But wait: it's also one of those sites that if you happen to use adblock or a script blocker, just turns to a long, ugly list of links, looking like something circa 1993.

      I hate Vox. It's Forbes, except run by a bunch of 20-somethings with associates degrees in art & design.

    • If autonomous cars can cooperate and navigate more intelligently to reduce traffic jams, there'll be some pretty big benefits
  • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:02PM (#51609355)

    Someone with a vested interest in generating clicks had an idea!

    I would like to subscribe to your newsletter!

  • ...they could put a ton of people out of work in the transportation industry, enrich a few corporations, and further wreck the economy through knock-on effects as the unemployed push wages down by widening the already huge pool of desperate labor. No wonder they keep predicting we won't own these autonomous cars... Most people won't be able to afford to.
    • Re:Or... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by TsuruchiBrian ( 2731979 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:50PM (#51609713)
      The same thing happened with the advent of computers. When computers came out, they made a lot of human jobs obsolete. The glut of unemployment drove down wages, and nobody but the very rich could afford the computers. To this very day, only the top 1% own computers.
    • ...they could put a ton of people out of work in the transportation industry, enrich a few corporations, and further wreck the economy through knock-on effects as the unemployed push wages down

      Maybe people could spend their copious free time reading about economic fallacies [wikipedia.org]. Or we could just pay the unemployed to throw rocks through windows to generate jobs for glaziers [investopedia.com].

      • by delt0r ( 999393 )
        Shh. GP thinks he/she has a original and insightful observation about the DOOOM of the future. Whatever you don't tell them that people like themsleves have been making this point, incorrectly, for centuries.
  • Today, people who don't own a car and/or don't want to drive just take a taxi or Uber. If they buy a self-driving car instead, how does that lead to more trips and more pollution?

    • If people buy more cars, one way more pollution would be generated is the embedded energy in the cars- a significant portion of the energy a car uses over its lifetime is during manufacture. More cars being made causes a lot of pollution, even if the cars just sit on the dealer lot.

      However most of the predictions I've seen call for fewer cars to be manufactured. People who take a taxi now will take a robo-taxi (or whatever they'll be called) in the future, not buy a car. I also think Uber won't have any

      • With taxis and Ubers, a good chunk of the cost of the ride is paying some guy for his time in driving you. With a robo-car, that cost goes away, so robo-Uber rides should be cheaper theoretically.

        While this might mean people might go places more because it's cheaper (more passenger-miles total), this also probably means more people will forgo buying their own car, and just use robo-Uber instead. After all, people only have finite time to spend sitting in an Uber/robo-Uber car going someplace, but everyone

    • by DarkOx ( 621550 )

      Because sometimes I don't go out because I don't 'feel' like driving. Sure I could go to the grocery store to get this ingredient I am out of or I could just substitute this bag of rice I have for the called for pasta and still have a reasonable dinner. People make marginal decisions like that all the time. If going to the grocery does not mean having to drive and pay attention but instead means I can take my tablet with me and finish the TV show I am watching, just in the car instead of on the sofa, I m

      • I thought the article was totally silly until I read your comment. Now I think it's only maybe a little bit silly, you have some good points. Though...if you're the only passenger in the car (human backup!, I doubt the law would ever allow you that cocktail; and that's still two hours couped up in a rather confined space; more, if you hit traffic. But I could see it pushing that marginal decision over the line once in while.
    • Well, I think it's pretty obvious... Taxi companies are going to retrofit all of their 90's crown vics to be autonomous!!!!

      Reality check: By the time autonomous driving is good enough for the road, the vast majority of cars (autonomous or otherwise) will be electric. So the "milage" argument would have been a smarter way to go than the "oh my god pollution" argument. Just sayin...

    • Today, people who don't own a car and/or don't want to drive just take a taxi or Uber. If they buy a self-driving car instead, how does that lead to more trips and more pollution?

      Maybe we have cars for our kids now. Certainly mine would be in more after-school programs, since now we have a way of getting them there. Or maybe going an hour away to some otherwise inconvenient shopping center doesn't sound so horrible so we just go hop in our car, plug in our laptops and tune out for an hour. Certainly I wou

    • by hey! ( 33014 )

      Well it eliminates the taxi driver driving around looking for a fare, but I suspect that some future iteration of Uber will involve lending your autonomous car out. This would be particularly attractive for plug-in hybrids in cities, where the fixed cost of maintaining cars is high but the wear-and-tear of stop and go driving is less. After your car drops you off at work you'll send it forth to go pay for itself. Unless there is some provision for queueing autonomous cars waiting for a fare you might we

    • by TWX ( 665546 )

      Today, people who don't own a car and/or don't want to drive just take a taxi or Uber. If they buy a self-driving car instead, how does that lead to more trips and more pollution?

      If one doesn't have to drive one's self to work then one might be inclined to take a job with a much longer commute-time because that time could be spent doing something else while being conveyed to work.

      Hell, at my salaried job, legally I have to be here six hours a day even though they strongly encourage everyone to work their eight+. If I have an hour-commute one-way, and if I can do actual productive work during that hour to-the-office and the hour from-the-office and would not be needed in the offi

  • >> Self-driving cars could increase the overall amount of vehicle miles traveled.

    Yes it will. One of the OTHER ways it will do this will be to take the pain out of commuting (e.g., you can watch TV instead of drive; you'll no longer feel as stressed when in traffic) so people will start living further and further out from their jobs again - should be great for the suburbs.

    Personally, I can't wait for it. If you want to cut my emissions with my self-driving car, make it electric and self-charging too
    • As more and more labor is automated, a higher percentage of jobs will no longer require "going" to work every morning (e.g. telecommuting). We may even be able to afford fewer work days. My job recently cut back to 9 work days every 2 weeks. With more automation, we could see a higher leisure:work ratio overall (e.g. 36 hour work week).

      And most importantly, we will no doubt have autonomous cars that run on renewable energy, where having more of them will not represent the same environmental impact compar

    • Yes it will. One of the OTHER ways it will do this will be to take the pain out of commuting (e.g., you can watch TV instead of drive; you'll no longer feel as stressed when in traffic) so people will start living further and further out from their jobs again - should be great for the suburbs.

      I think this effect will be minimal. You still only have 24 hours in a day, so just because the commute is less stressful doesn't mean you're going to want to spend another hour or two sitting in a car every day. May

  • Unloaded cars driving to the depot as well.

    To be able to hit rush hour demand you will need a lot of cars to cover that need.

    • by zlives ( 2009072 )

      mandated ride sharing and parking in public parking, as in on your street, based on usage metrics.
      now you and 5 of your neighbors get to ride together.

    • by The-Ixian ( 168184 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:36PM (#51609613)

      I think the reason that most people don't take public transport (at least around here) is the convenience factor.

      I don't think most people would have a problem with ride sharing if the convenience factor is similar.

      So, you just need to make your algorithm keep most of the vehicles that took people home the previous evening in the general vicinity, perhaps even in your driveway until it is needed elsewhere. No need to go back to some central hub. That is an outdated model.

  • by Markvs ( 17298 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:05PM (#51609387) Journal
    If driving is easier and more pleasant, people will do it more.
    The autonomous car isn't going to make traffic, construction, nor other idiot drivers magically disappear, so I'd say this is a hopeful but doubtful claim.

    Automation will open up car travel to populations (the young, the elderly, the visually or otherwise impaired) who did not previously have access. Self-driving cars could increase the overall amount of vehicle miles traveled.
    Except that these are the people that almost always have someone ELSE drive them places (loved, ones, friends, taxis...), requiring pickups. So it's easy to argue that they could decrease the overall amount of miles travelled very easily. Nevermind the automated vehicles would presumably use smart navigation to avoid traffic, take the shortest routes possible, and drive under the speed limit.
    • The autonomous car isn't going to make traffic, construction, nor other idiot drivers magically disappear, so I'd say this is a hopeful but doubtful claim.

      Computers did not make tedious arithmetic computations disappear completely, but they did a pretty damn good job.

      With autonomous cars, you have a lot of advantages. You can have cars drive closer together as they will have better reaction times. You will have fewer accidents. You will have cars that can coordinate with each other. Maybe we won't need

    • The autonomous car isn't going to make traffic, construction, nor other idiot drivers magically disappear, so I'd say this is a hopeful but doubtful claim.

      It won't make them disappear, but it'll make them not my problem. One of the things that makes train travel so wonderful is that it seriously doesn't matter (outside of stress about being late) if the scenery outside the window pauses for a little bit. You've got a book and some headphones, you don't need to care.

  • So quality of life (Score:5, Insightful)

    by roc97007 ( 608802 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:06PM (#51609399) Journal

    ...especially for the elderly, is not a consideration?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cbeaudry ( 706335 )

      In this new world, where there is a vendetta against all human beings by way of climate change alarmism, quality of life is not a consideration.

      When discussing CO2 all the negatives are quantified, but the positives seem to never make the cut.

      Cheap energy is the #1 reason for modern society, quality of life, pursuit of leisure activities, medical break throughs, higher education available to the masses, life expectancy, etc.

      But all of that, is unimportant.

  • by ADRA ( 37398 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:09PM (#51609423)

    the young
    For the -very- young: Realistically, there are obviously laws that will have to address just whom can ride in an autonomous vehicle. When a child rides a bus alone, essentially the bus driver takes temporary custodianship. When on a plane, flight attendants take care of their care. In a fully autonomous vehicle, there's no custodian, which will likely be judged illegal.
    For the not so young: Yes, the rich teenager could ride aton's vs. taking more efficient travel like buses / trains. That said, economics will be a large factor in this.

    the elderly
    Many many old people take buses to travel currently. One -could- say that they'd all flip over to aton's, but IMHO, much of the time they're travelling it's to find be around people. They might frown at some young punk kids on the bus, but it gives them something to do. Riding in an aton alone is much more lonely but at least you get some new views. Ultimately I don't see -that- big of a % of increased use, but considering the growing elderly demographic, this could at least be a problem as a short/medium term aberration.

    the visually or otherwise impaired
    A small population which shouldn't even show up as a significant factor.

    • the visually or otherwise impaired

      A small population which shouldn't even show up as a significant factor.

      I wouldn't call 3.4 million people in the US insignificant. Nor the 39 million blind and 285 million visually impaired insignificant.

      And judging by the way people drive, I suspect that there are many more who should not be driving at night because they are night-blind, or have really bad peripheral vision loss without even recognizing it.

      It's not just the elderly. I was in the recovery room after retinal surgery and the 10-year-old kid in the next bed had l had his eye removed, and the other one is eit

      • by boskone ( 234014 )

        are you sure about those numbers?

        so 285M out of 330M total population are visually impaired? that seems, well, fake and wrong.

        Looks like 7.4M blind people vs 39 million.
        https://nfb.org/blindness-stat... [nfb.org]

      • " 39 million blind and 285 million visually impaired"

        I'll assume those numbers are worldwide. For starters, how many can even afford a vehicle?I suspect most don't have decent incomes due to their disability. Secondly, are we wanting to create rules to keep them at home so they can't cause emissions? That doesn't seem fair. It could even be considered eugenics-lite.

        • People with severe vision impairment or blindness are obviously going to be economically disadvantaged. Having the ability to go places easier might help that - even in the US [afb.org].

          Employment-population ratio: Of the approximately 4 million people who reported vision loss, only 875,000 (22%) were identified as employed. The employment-population ratio of 22% was the percentage of people who reported vision loss in the civilian noninstitutional population and were identified as employed. This means that of the nearly 4 million people with vision loss, only 22% of these people with vision loss were also identified as employed.

          It's not an "insignificant number."

    • the young

      This doesn't seem like an argument against autonomous vehicles so much as it is an argument for against leaving small children unattended in general. There is an age when children are allowed to be on their own (I think I was 11), and an age where they aren't. In the bus example, you could have a person watching the children on the autonomous bus much more diligently than a bus driver ever could.

      The old

      I don't think it's a good idea to assume that the elderly of the future will have the same habi

  • Automation will open up car travel to populations (the young, the elderly, the visually or otherwise impaired) who did not previously have access.

    Old age and vision problems will come to all of us, sooner or later.

    Be careful what you ask for, Mr. Pickens. You WILL get it.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by BronsCon ( 927697 )

      Old age and vision problems will come to all of us, sooner or later.

      Bullshit. *pulls trigger* Damn, I missed. You win, this time.

  • by ErichTheRed ( 39327 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:15PM (#51609449)

    Don't forget that you're most likely not going to be able to retrofit your '72 Olds Cutlass or similar with self-driving technology. Future cars are likely to be electric and very energy efficient, so the greenhouse gases would be generated at the point of power generation, which is also getting more efficient year on year.

    I'm a little more concerned about other things surrounding autonomous driving:
    - Atrophy of driving skills, so if the computer does end up causing a problem, the human won't be able to recover
    - Knocking yet another entire class of labor (taxi drivers, truck drivers, bus drivers, delivery drivers, and so on) out of the ranks of the employed. No one wants to address this fact, but the reality is that driving is often a "job of last resort" for some people, and often the only job paying a decent wage that the holder is qualified to do.
    - Privacy -- Remember Google seems to be the ones driving this the hardest. The second they get a key patent that locks out competitors, it's game over for privacy. Your driving history will be for sale to advertisers who will bombard you with ads while you drive past their establishments.

    • by zlives ( 2009072 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:35PM (#51609601)

      - Atrophy of driving skills, i would compare this with people causing accidents because of distractions, lack of ability or just tiredness. will have to wait and see but i think the offset maybe towards self driving cars.
      -Jobs; that is a good one... no idea what will happen, i am assuming until the autonomous sex dolls are released there maybe last resort job available... (horrible)
      -Privacy; well if you own the car you can probably tell it to bugger off, otherwise plug in your VR device and ignore the screens.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:16PM (#51609453)

    and it kills black people and puppies. Even 1 ounce of CO2 in the atmosphere will cause tornadoes, cancer, and male pattern baldness. So the hive collective of right thinking liberal do-gooders needs to come up with some means of transportation that does not produce carbon. Even bicycles increase the man made CO2 output. We need some system or means of energy production that does not rely on combustion. I propose we install small modular nuclear reactors in all the auto-mobiles. The other solution might be to use wind energy. Perhaps we could install sails on auto-mobiles. Of coarse that would affect global wind patterns. We could use put solar sells on the top of tricycles. Of coarse we would have to remove the pedals to keep people from respirating too hard and making too much CO2. That I think is the sweet spot. They may only go 5 mph, but you should not be moving fast in the first place. It is dangerous.

    Let's do it. Can we get a go fund me program started to create an environmentally sustainable solar powered trycycle that goes 5 mph.

  • Flawed assumptions (Score:4, Insightful)

    by twotacocombo ( 1529393 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:18PM (#51609475)

    The whole "more miles driven = more pollution" premise is based on the flawed assumption that:

    a) no more advancements in combustion engine efficiency or pollution reduction will be made

    b) no more advancements in electric vehicle efficiency will be made

    c) the ratio of fossil fuel to clean electricity generation will never improve.

    Pretending that autonomous car technology will advance to the point that it is ubiquitous, while all other advancements in automotive systems grind to a halt, is just plain stupid.

  • by PhantomHarlock ( 189617 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:21PM (#51609499)

    That's a common argument used against ANY human activity by zero growth advocates and radical environmentalists. Just pick an activity and make something up. (lets not have backup cameras because it will allow the elderly and disabled to drive more, which will lead to a tiny amount of increased pollution, nevermind the lives it saves)

    By using that argument you are demeaning all of the people that the post admits would benefit the most, such as the elderly, disabled, the most vulnerable of our population.

    The idea of arguing against something because it is easier to use therefore more people will use it is mind boggling. The vast majority of road pollution today comes from semi trucks. Modern cars are incredibly clean and efficient compared to their counterparts 30 and 40 years ago. By comparison they emit almost no pollution at all. You're debating over a small percentage of a small percentage that's not even worth worrying about on any scale. Also, having automated car services will lead to less cars on the road overall.

    • Goddess forbid that we have nicer lives and can do more fun things.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Pete Smoot ( 4289807 )

      The vast majority of road pollution today comes from semi trucks.

      A surprising amount of congestion and pollution also comes from cars circling the block looking for parking [ucla.edu]. One hope is that autonomous cars could self-park somewhere else, reducing congestion around popular destinations. Any system which avoided you needing to park near your destination (mass transit, Uber, taxis, robocars) has the same effect.

      Back to TFA, the world is complicated. It's hard to say whether robocars will increase, decrease, or leave unchanged emissions. I expect they'll change too much oth

  • by SuperKendall ( 25149 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:25PM (#51609525)

    My plan is to just set the car to roam around while i'm not using it, so at least one of us is having a good time.

    • by PPH ( 736903 )

      This will be the solution to increasing restrictions on parking in many cities. Want to stop at the local Starbucks but can't find a space? Just tell the car to circle the block for an hour or so until you are ready to go.

    • by DogDude ( 805747 )
      My plan is to just set the car to roam around while i'm not using it, so at least one of us is having a good time.

      That's what all of the autonomous car companies will do. There are going to be fleets of Uber/Google/Whoever cars constantly in motion, because whoever gets to the client first when a car is requested, will win. So I think the roads will be filled with fleets of circulating autonomous cars, some with passengers, but a lot without.
  • Baloney (Score:4, Interesting)

    by LunaticTippy ( 872397 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:25PM (#51609529)
    In my neighborhood I see so much wasted travel because a human driver is needed. I see huge chains of cars dropping kids off at school. Many of these cars drive from the parent's workplace to the home, pick up the kid, drop off at school, then back to the workplace. 90% of that is wasted travel. I see people drive their spouse all the way to work, turn around and drive all the way home again. 50% wasted travel, repeated at the end of the workday.

    An additional benefit of robot cars is nobody will feel territorial about them. Nobody will give a crap about their kid sharing a robot car with a neighbor kid or three, or sharing a robot car to work.

    Plus, with the decreased accidents and improved efficiency of robotic navigation there won't be as bad traffic so travel time and inefficient detours will be reduced massively.

    I see it as pure win. Drivers will be out of work, but we'll find something else to do with their time. We always have found things before.
    • Exactly. A robot driver might waste some mileage by dropping people off and then parking, or improving the quality of life of some people by granting them access to transportation. But a human driver will waste an entire trip in some cases. Also, you have to consider the carbon cost of smashing up your car and getting a new one -- because a lot of people who shouldn't be driving are doing so anyways. People would be more inclined to rent a vehicle instead of owning one, due to lower insurance costs; they co

  • This article just reminds me on the essays I wrote in high school and university. I could find 1000 evidence to support my argument, I could also find 1000 evidence to go against my argument. What it matters is how many people click the link and how much ad revenue one could get.
  • The best application of autonomous driving would be public transport. Having a bus that will pick you up, you tell is where you what to go, and it will factor your destination into its current route will remove the need for most cars on the road. Most people use cars to get them from A (home) to B (work) and back again. If autonomous public transport will do this faster and cheaper, and more conveniently than current (slower than driving and doesn't drop you at the door) driving, them it will prove to

  • This was written by the oil companies, right? Of course it was.
  • NO WORRIES (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @02:43PM (#51609661) Homepage Journal

    Electric cars will take over.

    Once upon a time, CRT monitors were everywhere. LCDs were desirable but they were newer than CRTs, thus more expensive to make. But as the cost of manufacturing LCDs came down close to CRTs, they took over. All other things being equal, LCDs were more desirable than CRTs *AND* they were LESS expensive to ship. Ergo, they won.

    Now, gas cars were everywhere. Electric cars are more desirable (in general) but they are newer than gas cars, thus more expensive to make. But as the cost of manufacturing electric cars comes down, they'll take over. All other things being equal, electric cars will be more desirable than gas cars (cheaper to "fill", quieter, etc.) *AND* they'll eventually be LESS expensive to make since they are much less complicated than gas cars. Ergo, they'll win.

    LCDs had some other obstacles to overcome, eg. image quality, but eventually, that got worked out. Electric cars have some obstacles to overcome, eg. range and charge time, but that will get worked out. As of this minute, a Tesla Model S is just about perfect for most families, other than that it currently costs $90k. But remember when 15-20" LCD monitors were $2,000?

    (I used computers to make an analogy about cars. Do I get a prize?)

    • So what you're telling me is that when the market offers a product or service that is superior to other products and services, it will eventually gain dominance?

      There was no government subsidy for LCD computer monitors (that I am aware of, anyway). We shouldn't have subsidies for electric vehicles either. Or Ethanol. Or anything else. Let the product stand on its own; when it is good enough people will adopt it on their own.

    • Re:NO WORRIES (Score:4, Informative)

      by Solandri ( 704621 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @05:58PM (#51610925)
      It's important to understand that the cost advantage of operating an electric car is only slightly due to improved energy efficiency. The vast majority of the price differential is due to the extremely low price of coal and natural gas relative to gasoline.

      An ICE engine can hit about 30% efficiency. An automatic transmission is about 90%-95% efficient (pretty impressive considering it's just squirting fluid at a turbine).

      Newer coal plants are about 40% efficient. Natural gas plants are about 60% efficient. Split the difference and go with 50%. Power lines are about 98% efficient. Real-world charging efficiency of the Tesla [futurepundit.com] is about 80% (1/1.26 = 0.79). That is, 80% of the electricity from your wall socket goes into the battery, the other 20% becomes heat. I can't find any numbers for discharge efficiency, so let's call it 100% for now. And electric motor efficiency is about 90%-95%.

      Tally it up and you get:
      ICE: 30% * 92.5% = 27.8% efficient
      EV: 50% * 98% * 80% * (100%) * 92.5% = 36.3% efficient.

      So really not that big a difference. If battery discharge efficiency is also 80%, then the EV is basically identical to an ICE in overall energy efficiency. Yes if solar and wind come down in price to match or beat coal, then you can drop the 50% at the front. But wind is still about 1.5x-2x the price of coal, and solar about 5x-7x the price.

      Now look at the fuel price side.

      Coal costs about $50/ton, and contains about 24 GJ/ton. That's $2.08 per GJ.
      Gasoline costs about $2/gallon and contains about 120 MJ/gallon. That's $16.67 per GJ. Almost an order of magnitude more.

      So there you have it. EVs are only 1.1x-1.3x more energy efficient than ICE cars. But their fuel source is 8x cheaper. That's why EVs are cheaper to operate than ICE vehicles.

      Incidentally, if you're wondering why we're burning gasoline in our cars instead of cheap coal, the two obvious reasons are emissions and a liquid fuel being easier to manage than a solid fuel. But the biggest reason is energy density. At 24 GJ/ton, coal has 24 MJ/kg. Gasoline is 44 MJ/kg. So you only need to carry around half as much fuel (by weight) if you use gasoline instead of coal.
  • Tesla owners report how wonderful it is to drive in their EVs. That is without using autopilot. It is just that the car is a decent drive. But, that is leading to those owners jumping from 12-15K miles / year, to driving 20-25K miles / year. Yes, these owners are simply increasing their fun driving, the way that we use to do back in the 60s and 70s.

    With the autopilot, it is very likely that they will increase driving distance as well. Tesla owners are going 200 miles on autopilot and simply enjoying the
  • Jevons Paradox (Score:5, Informative)

    by Marginal Coward ( 3557951 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @03:07PM (#51609835)

    See Jevons Paradox [wikipedia.org].

  • If you are looking to reduce greenhouse emissions, you need to address root causes, such as "cars make X CO2, could make less", "giant freighters free monumental amounts of carbon as they take raw materials from the US to China and finished products back to the US", and "cities are oppressive for many, who live in suburbs, creating a vast amount of useless travel each day".

    If your philosophy is saying "more people will live better lives- WHAT A PROBLEM!", then just ditch that philosophy. It sucks.

  • Automation will open up car travel to populations (the young, the elderly, the visually or otherwise impaired) who did not previously have access.

    Driverless cars will not only not be free, they will be substantially more expensive than a dumb manual car. They won't magically appear for these people. Those who don't currently have access use bikes, buses, taxis, carpools, and friends to get around.
  • by presidenteloco ( 659168 ) on Monday February 29, 2016 @03:32PM (#51610059)

    Over the next several years, by the time self-driving car technology is good enough to be mainstream, and by the time legislation has changed to allow them in general use, electric cars will have sufficient range and price reduction that they will be a viable alternative for most current uses of personal automobiles and taxis/ubers etc.

    When electric cars provide a viable alternative, and have lower carbon emissions even if coal generation continues, there is no excuse not to introduce a significant and ramping up price on carbon, for automotive fuels.

    This would reduce the tendency for non-electric uses of personal vehicles to increase.

    Proceeds from a sufficient carbon price could also be applied to speeding the conversion of the electricity generating system to more clean renewables,

  • Automation will open up car travel to populations (the young, the elderly, the visually or otherwise impaired) who did not previously have access.

    No, for these people, it will not. Autonomous cars will always require an educated, trained, tested, licensed, and insured driver at the controls (the full set of manual controls, that is) at all times, so anyone who is excluded from being a licensed driver (too young, too old, too impaired) will not be able to operate a so-called 'autonomous car'; they will still have to get someone else who is properly licensed to go with them, or call or a cab, or take the bus. To allow otherwise would put the public saf

    • you make assertion about policy in the future clinging to your past and present. If automated driving proves significantly safer than human at the wheel then there is no reason to have licensed driver, only licensed system that is superior to human driver. Seems clear to me that is the likely and desirable future. And just think if cars could ad-hoc couple up like electric trains to reduce overall fuel consumption and wear per unit (reduced air resistance, reduced load on each motor)

    • As I understand it, Google's studies of the topic are showing that having a human driver on hand will generally not help and will probably make the outcome worse. I think I read they found it takes about 1 second for a human driver to take over and be in effective control in the event they decide there is a problem that the computer can't handle. At typical car speeds, that 1 second is way too long.
      And that's with Google test drivers who have been carefully briefed and assessed.

      I think Google's tentative co

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