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The Benefits of Electric-Powered Driverless Cars

published: 2015-09-03 19:14

Author: Maria Ramos

Several firms have been working on a new type of product that could transform the automotive industry: driverless cars. Although there have been a few halting steps towards this development over the years, such as cruise control and parking assist, it is only recently that the technology has begun to be honed and perfected to its full potential. Models from Google are currently undergoing testing, and they have the ability to automatically handle driving tasks, like turning, accelerating and braking, without any human intervention whatsoever.

Power Resources of Electric Vehicles

The use of driverless cars have the promise of providing a cleaner and greener vehicle option.

While there's nothing about self-driving automobiles that requires the use of a particular form of energy, it just so happens that the products that are closest to market are electric vehicles. Both Google's prototype cars and Tesla Motors' recently announced self-driving vehicle employ electric motors, which are inherently more eco-friendly than normal combustion engines. Other automakers, like BMW and Audi, are planning their own autonomous vehicles, and while some of them will probably be electric while others use standard gasoline engines.

The way the Google self-driving car powers itself is by using a battery that can be recharged at home, completely eliminating the need for emissions-generating petroleum products. This doesn't mean that it's entirely carbon-neutral; after all, as Spark Energy has reported, the vast majority of the electricity used to by most charging stations still comes from oil- and coal-powered plants. Nevertheless, electric vehicles are much better for the environment than traditional cars, and they'll become even cleaner in future as electricity production shifts away from the burning of fossil fuels and towards renewable sources, like solar and wind. The units that Google is now testing have a range of about 100 miles before needing to be recharged, which is more than enough for the typical driver.

Benefits of Self-Driving Cars

Other than being environmentally-friendly, driverless cars have a number of potential benefits.

Merely being electric-powered is enough to make these cars much more environmentally friendly than the dinosaurs they're replacing. But the self-driving capabilities of these vehicles will enhance these benefits even further. There are certain techniques that drivers can use to improve their mileage. Some of these tricks include driving in the wake of another vehicle to reduce air drag, efficiently choosing lanes to reduce time spent slowing down and speeding up, and taking advantage of the wind to slightly boost speed. Only the most dedicated and observant humans have what it takes to effectively utilize these strategies. However, the automatic computers in charge of operating self-driving automobiles can be programmed to engage in these activities as a matter of course.

Deployment of Power-Charging Stations

With the increased use of electric driverless cars, the use of fossil fuels and “dirty” energy will decline.

Once these driverless, electric vehicles hit the road in large numbers, we'll see an increased demand for charging stations and other infrastructure to provide the energy needed to run them. In most cases, this type of energy production will replace gasoline usage, so the environmental benefits will be considerable and almost immediate. There is the possibility the more total miles will be driven as people send their cars on automatic errands and those who currently can't drive begin to employ self-driving machinery. Despite this rise in total miles driven, it's expected that net carbon emissions will be significantly lowered overall.

Although there are a few naysayers, most industry observers expect driverless vehicles to eventually replace human-operated automobiles. The few members of the public who have been allowed to ride in these self-driving vehicles mostly report the experience as being a positive one. Google's fleet has amassed an enviable safety record with only about a dozen minor accidents in more than a million miles of testing. There are thus other reasons for switching over besides ecological benefits.

In only a few years, we'll start to see self-driving automobiles replacing traditional cars. Since a high proportion of the models released will use electricity instead of petroleum products, they'll deliver a cleaner ride than what most people now use. As this seemingly futuristic tech achieves mainstream adoption, we'll see a reduction in the total energy used for transportation and a concomitant drop in net carbon emissions.

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published: 2017-06-03 14:16