Autonomous vehicles could be an environmental boon or disaster, depending on public policy

Princeton University, Engineering School

Widespread use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could either massively increase or drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions depending, in large part, on public policy, according to new research from Princeton University.

“We need fuel economy standards to ensure the cars are clean, and policies to encourage ridesharing to reduce vehicle miles traveled,” said Judi Greenwald, non-resident fellow at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment and co-author of a Jan. 4 paper published in the journal Energy Policy.

The researchers found that well-managed autonomous vehicles “could increase mobility, improve safety, reduce traffic congestion and make fleet management companies rich, while lowering emissions and reducing energy use.” But, they said, poorly managed ones could make “things significantly worse on all these fronts.”

By allowing passengers to work or relax en route, automated vehicles would greatly improve the experience of traveling in an automobile. But planning, management and carefully crafted regulations are essential to reducing vehicle emissions and avoiding additional miles traveled by the vehicles, specifically vehicles traveling with few passengers or without any passengers at all.

“Two big changes are coming — automation and mobility as a service,” said Greenwald, who served as deputy director for climate, environment and energy efficiency in the Department of Energy during the Obama administration. “Depending on how they interact, and how clean the fuel is, it could really end up a lot better or worse off for the environment,” said Greenwald, who is a Princeton engineering alumna.

Greenwald and co-author Alain Kornhauser, professor of operations research and financial engineering who has a Ph.D. in mechanical and aerospace engineering from Princeton, found that the best way to ensure a good outcome is to deploy AVs in managed fleets rather than as personal vehicles, and to implement rigorous fuel efficiency standards for the vehicles. Fleet managers have strong incentives to use the most efficient fuels and to minimize the amount of time on the road that cars spend with few or no passengers.

“Fleets are motivated to deliver as many person-miles out of each vehicle as they possibly can,” said Kornhauser, who is also director of Princeton’s Program in Transportation. “If you’re getting two person-miles out of each vehicle-mile traveled (because there are two passengers in the vehicle), energy use and pollution are chopped in half, regardless of the fuel source.”

The authors conducted the study during Greenwald’s tenure in spring 2018 as an inaugural Gerhard R. Andlinger Visiting Fellow in Energy and the Environment at the Andlinger Center. The program brings in seasoned professionals in energy and the environment to collaborate on research and enrich the center’s education efforts. For the study, the authors examined a large body of earlier research by Kornhauser, with one study showing that a properly managed fleet, combined with public transit, could cut vehicle travel by 43 percent in New Jersey. They also pointed to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory 2016 report that showed that AVs could triple fuel use due to easier travel and an increase in empty vehicle miles traveled.

Greenwald said policy will play a big role in controlling which players are able to operate these vehicles and how. High barriers to market entry, such as expensive licenses similar to a commercial trucking license, could discourage individuals from buying autonomous vehicles. Regulations could also prohibit the technology from being sold to individuals, the report said.

“While a future with autonomous vehicles may seem far off, we must be planning for them today to ensure they deliver on their promise versus set us back,” said Rob Freudenberg, vice president for energy and environment at Regional Plan Association, an urban research and advocacy organization focused on the tri-state area, and unaffiliated with the study. “That includes everything from encouraging the right technology, to integrating with existing public transportation networks, to completely reimagining our streets for the better.”

“We need public policy to ensure that we align the economic incentives with what we want from a societal perspective,” said Greenwald. “It’s really up to us.”


Public Release: 12-Mar-2019

From EurekAlert!

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Paul r
March 13, 2019 2:29 am

For those like me who love driving what a boring future we have ahead of us.

Dan Sudlik
Reply to  Paul r
March 13, 2019 4:12 am


Charles Higley
Reply to  Paul r
March 13, 2019 5:14 am

It’s worse than just autonomous vehicles. Once they are on the road, the hazard to these AV’s will be humans driving the other cars. The push would then be to outlaw human drivers completely, then giving the AV fleets total control over our ability to travel. It’s the ultimate control, keeping everybody in their place so that they can be easily monitored and cannot be lost from surveillance.

Gerry, England
Reply to  Charles Higley
March 13, 2019 7:17 am

Just think of the fun to be had hacking into their control software. Lock the doors and then send them on a trip somewhere completely different. An evil hacker could indulge in dodgem cars as has already been shown possible. Still, speed will probably be limited to 20mph. And if they are relying on GPS it is quite easy to block the signal and not impossible to spoof the location. At least this would brighten up what would be a very drab existence. In fact if you look at all the films of the future with all the technology is does look very dull and depressing. Perhaps Seasick Steve hit the nail on the head in the Last Rodeo.

Reply to  Gerry, England
March 13, 2019 1:45 pm

Some car alarms are already hackable, leading to the possibility of “taking control” of the car:

“Not only could compromising the smart alarms result in the vehicle type and owner’s details to be stolen, but the car could be unlocked, the alarm disabled, the vehicle tracked, microphones compromised, and the immobilizer to be hijacked.”

Reply to  Paul r
March 13, 2019 5:15 am

With all the total loons out there, if they think I’m going to “ride share” with a bunch of total strangers every day…they are off their meds

Reply to  Latitude
March 13, 2019 9:33 am

You don’t have ride with them. You can just sit back and relax and enjoy the smell of the dirty diaper on the floor of the shared AV.
Or the vomit from the drunk…

Reply to  Paul r
March 13, 2019 5:19 am

Car crashes caused by badly programmed or hacked autonomous vehicles will not be boring. Deadly, but not boring.

Walter Sobchak
Reply to  Paul r
March 13, 2019 8:33 am

Don’t worry. It is not going to happen.

Reply to  Walter Sobchak
March 13, 2019 8:54 am

If you read the WSJ daily, the idea is constantly slammed down your throat (mostly by start-ups looking for investors) that autonomous vehicles are inevitable, and something we “need.” But in truth the technology is nowhere near to being commercially viable, and fleets of “mobilty as a service” cars are a problem Uber and Lyft already solved. “Driverless” doesn’t really add value to that.

For the same reasons that long-distance high-speed rail is a non-starter economically in the USA, even if these vehicles became “a thing,” it would only ever be useful in high-density inner cities where utilization would be constant. Plus, (if you read the Comments section in those same WSJ articles), you find out the vast majority of drivers have no intention of giving up the wheel in their lifetime. Perhaps instead of talking to geek-hipsters like themselves, these techies ought to hang out in an ordinary diner now and then . . .

You can’t sell a product no one wants to buy. As AOC would say, like, duh?

Reply to  Paul r
March 13, 2019 8:52 am

Even though the capability has been there for quite a few years, how many airline pilots trust their automated flight systems to perform all of their takeoffs and landings? I worked in the computer/software industry for 35 years and probably haven’t met 2 or 3 programmers, hardware engineers or test engineers I would trust to design, build and implement the control system for any car I would ride in off a test track.

Reply to  Paul r
March 25, 2019 1:44 pm

Even worse if you drive a manual.

March 13, 2019 2:38 am

“the best way to ensure a good outcome is to deploy AVs in managed fleets rather than as personal vehicles”

In other words, no personal mobility, complete government control of all movements, and no cars for people outside cities (which “managed fleet” would be willing to drive a hundred mile to get to a customer, and then drive him ten miles, and repeat the whole thing a few hours later).

Fortunately truly autonomous vehicles are very far away, despite all enthusiastic reports.

By the way the problem of efficiently “managing” a fleet of vehicles to avoid driving empty happens to be one of the classic unsolved mathematical conundrums, the so called “travelling salesman problem”. There is no known general solution and all existing programs use a crude and slow “try, try again” approach. Imagine doing that for e. g. all of New Jersey. In rush hour. In real time.

One more bunch of “seasoned professionals in energy and the environment” with their heads in the clouds.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 2:46 am

Interesting point. The vehicle drives empty to pick you up from your house.

Sounds like they’re making it worse not better….

steve case
Reply to  Greg Cavanagh
March 13, 2019 5:10 am

I’m sure the miles/gallon rating of buses and other public transportation doesn’t include the trip to the route, but does include the driver in passenger miles/gallon. My continuing survey of buses around Milwaukee almost always finds them nearly empty as they trundle about.

Rhys Jaggar
Reply to  Greg Cavanagh
March 13, 2019 5:58 am

Not necessarily, they might pick up a colleague of yours first. Could easily see one AV pick up four employees from the same firm and drop them at the office.

Nothing new about this. I shared Limousine rides from JFK to Cold Spring Harbour 25 years ago with total strangers and it was a standard way of reducing costs of a ride.

Richard Patton
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
March 13, 2019 2:01 pm

The likelihood of that, unless you work in a place with at least half a thousand employees, AND on the same schedule, is pretty minimal. Before I retired, I worked at a place of about 100 employees, and three shifts starting at 5am, 6am, and 8am. None of us could use public transportation (8 am people would have had to leave home as early as 5:45 to make it to work on time) and any car-pool arrangement would have added 30 minutes to an hour to the commute. No one lived in a straight line distance from each other.

Bill Powers
Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 3:31 am

More like one more bunch of seasoned bureaucrats with their head up their arse.

Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 4:40 am

“the best way to ensure a good outcome is to deploy AVs in managed fleets rather than as personal vehicles”

Next, the state will get to decide of your transportation need is sufficient enough to justify the trip.

Unless you are an important state bureaucrat, off to pass yet another law to limit your personal freedom, you will be denied.

“But I need groceries!”, you say. The state responds, “Groceries are only for bureaucrats, who need the extra nutrition to pass more rules to govern you. Eat your delicious processed larvae, like everyone else.”

(sarc/off, but not really)

Richard Hill
Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 4:43 am

A problem with sharing is cleanliness…
Nearly all attempts to get the economic benefits fail on this.
Think public transport… public toilets… Why are they not the default?

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Richard Hill
March 13, 2019 7:39 pm

Vandalism might also kill off the idea. The owning company will be spending a small fortune just on keeping the cars clean and the seats intact. Might break several banks before companies give up on the idea of an unsupervised transport.

Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 5:17 am

We already have this where I live, in the entire area surrounding Chicago, and all the way over into Indiana. It is called COMMUTER RAIL (Metra) , plus taxis and buses and the El. It’s my understanding that most cities also have something similar.

These guys must not have enough to do if they think something like AVs is a useful idea. And since most of us like to get home before midnight, picking up the POV at the train station, or using my own POV parked down the street to get to the store for grocery shopping works a lot better than summoning some rickety, uncomprehending mindless vehicle programmed to take the longest route possible to go anywhere or do anything.

But if city dwellers like this kind of thing, they can have it, as long as they stay in the city where they belong.

Reply to  Sara
March 13, 2019 9:42 am

These guys must not have enough to do if they think something like AVs is a useful idea.
Alain’s been working on this subject for at least 30 years, and has had a student team competing in a DARPA competition for autonomous vehicles for over 20 years (both off and on roads). D stands for Defense, I’m sure even you can see that there could be military advantages to autonomous vehicles. As I recall the goal is to have about 30% of military vehicles with an autonomous capability. It may have escaped your notice that many new cars have ‘spin-off’ technologies such as collision avoidance, lane assist etc. In fact Alain has a blog series on the subject of car safety:

I had a team compete in a DARPA competition over 20 years ago on pilotless planes to be used for reconnaissance, the winner being the smallest vehicle to complete the task. We were the first to design a helicopter to do the job, no applications for that of course!

Joseph Campbell
Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 6:38 am

Tty: You get it, too. More central control…

Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 7:14 am

Anyone who believes that ceding ALL control of your personal vehicle to government command and control is a GOOD thing … deserves to be taken for a ride. Having The State tell ME how, where, and when to drive … undermines the AUTO in automobile. The AUTOmobile is perhaps the single greatest facilitator of human FREEDOM ever invented … no wonder The State wants total CONTROL of it.

Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 5:53 pm

I’ve read several reports, mostly about New York City, that claim that Uber, Lyft, and other ridesharing companies have actually increased the congestion. One said the traffic is now a problem all the time and especially at rush hour when the fairs increase. It draws several thousand vehicles in to run whenever there is room so they can make living at it. The extra ride-share vehicles tend to make it rush hour all day.

That doesn’t sound good for any kind of ride sharing or autonomous vehicles. There isn’t much space to put many extra cars in the city now. Any additional ones will have to commute in and out through the same traffic clogged bridges and highways now used by commuters(who aren’t going to go away).

The same thing is kind of indicated by the recent toll lanes installed on commuter routes in DC. At rush hour you can drive in a 30 mile traffic jam or you can pay something like $30 one way to take the toll lane. 99% can’t afford $30 for that convenience so now the traffic jams start an hour and half earlier and last longer.

A good example of the “elites” getting the goodies, quick rides, while the peons have to take the slow road and spend extra hours travelling. There are some commuter rail lines that once were quite good, but the deferred maintainence is making them very unreliable. The whole system needs to be rebuilt for something like 40 billion.

March 13, 2019 2:54 am

Judi Greenwald deputy director for climate, environment and energy efficiency and Alain Kornhauser professor of operations research and financial engineering sound rather like Grunerwald and Kornhauser of the
Verwaltung der Staatlichen Klimakontrolle.

Gerry, England
Reply to  nicholas tesdorf
March 13, 2019 7:07 am

Looking at the source of any report guides you as to whether the content is BS or not. An ex Obummer appointee would be top of the list to avoid.

Gerald the Mole
March 13, 2019 3:01 am

Greg C A very good point.

March 13, 2019 3:13 am

You can see the control freak gene coming out in them already. The simple fact is as retirees if our working offspring buy autonomous cars then we along with stay at home parents and pensioners and beneficiaries can call them up for use. With private or fleet ACs owners can decide whether they want to amortise their fixed costs by ride sharing with others with certain positive feedback scores like Uber or ebay. Think of the savings in road congestion carparking and downtime servicing as the AC can be sent off to the workshops by themselves.

Now for the kicker. If you thought paywave per km by all and sundry was an excellent use of sunk capital and all those resources then quick fill fossil fuels will rule over rechargeable EVs as they need time off road. Yes you can supercharge them to 80% in short time to get them back on the road but that kills battery longevity as against slow overnight charging. The EV fan club can smell a threat to their overpriced pecadillo with ACs here and are firing a warning shot across the bows of every owner being an entrepreneur as they also threaten massive disruption to public transport.

March 13, 2019 3:13 am

Shared journeys?

So I order a car to pick me up at 8.00 am to take me to work, but it stops on the way to pick three other people up, and then drop them off at work.

So I end up getting to work an hour late!

My boss will be pleased!

Reply to  Paul Homewood
March 13, 2019 3:26 am

No Paul the Uber type algorithms will develop much smarter than that. Suppose you put your own AC rides up for sale leaving from your home at a certain time in the morning you can set that time allowing say a 10 min buffer to your workplace which others on the route can tap into without affecting your deadline time or else they get allocated another rideshare offer/s. This is Big Data ruling supreme and you can see the attraction of the overarching Ubers taking a small snip for every km.

Reply to  observa
March 13, 2019 4:16 am

That’s fantasyland.

Reply to  observa
March 13, 2019 4:51 am

I agree. There is no such algorithm. This is a variety of the “travelling salesman” problem, albeit much more difficult since there are a number of extra boundary conditions. It can be sort of solved by using branch-and-bound, but not very efficiently. It is much simpler for Uber since they don’t have to optimize the solution, and don’t need to worry about where the vehicle ends up.

Crispin in Waterloo
Reply to  observa
March 13, 2019 5:01 am

Sounds like the perfect setup for hookers to work as “travelling salespeople” incognito. It just needs some curtains so as not to scare the horses.

Rhys Jaggar
Reply to  Paul Homewood
March 13, 2019 6:03 am

Paul, 25 years ago staff at JFK were organising shared limousine rides to surrounding areas. Millionaires on Long Island shared a ride with a humble Ph D student as I was dropped off at Cold Spring Harbour before they were dropped off in the Hamptons. The system worked fine, probably still does.

If you accept 15 minutes longer ride for under half of the price of a lone cab, you think it is a good deal.

John Dilks
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
March 13, 2019 6:48 am

Rhys Jagger,
What works for a ride home from the airport, doesn’t work for a ride to and from Wal-Mart. Besides that, New Jersey is a midget state. I could spit from city to city. It won’t work in the real world south or west of Jersey.

D. J. Hawkins
Reply to  John Dilks
March 13, 2019 8:26 am

Public transportation barely works, period, in New Jersey. If you want to go where the bus goes, that’s fine, but otherwise you are SOL. And that’s in the most densely populated state in the Union (slightly higher than India). Guaranteed to be worse elsewhere.

Russ Wood
Reply to  Rhys Jaggar
March 13, 2019 8:36 am

In Israel, these ‘shared cabs’ are called ‘”sherut” and I was using this sort of transport there 50 years ago!

March 13, 2019 3:25 am

I just hope they don’t have a Windows operating system.

Reply to  lee
March 13, 2019 6:13 am

Depends on what type of windows.
It might be just conceivable that a government may just be able to lock the windows / doors and take you to their required destination.

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  Tim
March 13, 2019 7:45 pm

Would give the Blue Screen of Death a new meaning.

But you bring up another interesting point. If the car has a camera in it, do the police have face recognition scanners hooked up and bring you in automatically?

The possibilities are quite scary when you get into it.

Bill Powers
March 13, 2019 3:35 am

I guess this means my George Jetson flying car is off the table. I was really looking forward to weekend flights in the country with my dog Astro.

March 13, 2019 3:38 am

wow – some people actually got paid (quite handsomely by most people’s standards) to come up with this absolutely stunning insight.

March 13, 2019 3:50 am

For some people it’s all about “controlling others.”

March 13, 2019 3:55 am


March 13, 2019 3:57 am

“We need fuel economy standards to ensure the cars are clean, and policies to encourage ridesharing to reduce vehicle miles traveled,” said Judi Greenwald, non-resident fellow at Princeton’s Andlinger Center for Energy and the Environment …

Has Judi noticed the billions (with a B) of dollars being spent by manufacturers around the world on developing electric cars? Electric cars will be mainstream before autonomous cars are. Probably long before. Clean cars will require clean electricity and barring some unanticipated breakthrough will mean some form of nuclear electricity generation.

These people are fighting the last war not the next.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 4:47 am

If electric cars become commonplace, we will need to double or triple grid energy capacity – that means new electricity generation, transmission and distribution systems, doesn’t it?

Most politicians can think no further than “energy comes from a plug in the wall.” It’s a bit more complicated than that.

Ann Banisher
March 13, 2019 5:04 am

Bingo! I find that the vast majority of people have no idea how things work and the consequences of changing them. One specific example is Ca is wanting most new parking spaces in garages to have an EV charger.
Try doing that on an apartment with 200 cars. Each charger is a dedicated 40 A circuit. Pretty soon what was a 2000 A transformer now needs to be a 10,000A transformer. Now multiply that down the line.

Reply to  Ann Banisher
March 13, 2019 6:38 am

1. We don’t now have a requirement for a gas pump for each parking spot.
2. That is because it takes 10 minutes to fill up at a convenience store that also sells gasoline.
3. Fast chargers and cars that can use them are around the corner. Search on “350-kv fast charger” and “Taycan.” Tesla is introducing 250-kv chargers.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 8:16 am

“Fast chargers and cars that can use them are around the corner”

And they will stay there just like the wonderful high-capacity battery that has been around that corner for the last 50 years.
Fast charging equals battery killing.

When you fill a gasoline tank you are charging at about a 3,000 kW level.

One more thing: faster charging = even more capacity needed.

I presume that those wonderful Tesla chargers work at 250/350 kW (I wouldn’t care to come within 10 yards of a 350 kV charger….).

I can tell you that there isn’t a lot of places where you can put in even one of those chargers without rebuilding the local distribution net.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 8:34 am

If you don’t mind shortening the life expectancy of your battery.
Not to mention the hassle of trying to wrestle that 3/4 inch thick (not counting insulation) thick charging cable into the receptical.

Have you ever investigated the type of insulation that would be needed to insulate a 350,000V source.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 8:57 am

MarkW wrote, “Have you ever investigated the type of insulation that would be needed to insulate a 350,000V source.”

350,000V is used for high power bulk transmission from generating stations. This is not something that would be available at a charging station.

At the substations, transformers reduce the voltage to a lower level for distribution to commercial and residential users. This distribution is accomplished with a combination of sub-transmission (33 to 132 kV) and distribution (3.3 to 25 kV). Finally, at the point of use, the energy is transformed to low voltage (varying by country and customer requirements … )

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 10:00 am

I presume that those wonderful Tesla chargers work at 250/350 kW

And a laundry dryer operating at 30 amp on a 220volt circuit is about one third of that.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 12:38 pm

What matters is how much energy you can pump into the car, the voltage at the grid side isn’t relevant.
Regardless, you still haven’t gotten around the need for a 3/4inch thick bar to carry the juice to your car. Nor have you figured out a way to prevent the battery from melting down trying to absorb so many watts so quickly.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 15, 2019 3:55 am

Phil wrote:
“I presume that those wonderful Tesla chargers work at 250/350 kW
And a laundry dryer operating at 30 amp on a 220 volt circuit is about one third of that.”

Math check:
Watts = Volts * Amps
220 volts * 30 amps = 6600 watts = 6.6KW
Times 3 = 19800 watts = ~19.8KW not 250-350KW

Phil – Your estimated Tesla charger wattage would equal 38 times to 53 times the draw of your household dryer – not about 3 times.

To be clear, I like electric cars and have driven one – the Tesla SUV – impressive. But my engineer friend lives in a neighbourhood with 3 Teslas and tells me that their local grid cannot handle all three plugged in at the same time.

Governments and automotive companies seem to be betting on an all-electric-car future. I will stand by my earlier comment that there is a mismatch between future projected electricity demand and supply – the numbers do not work, not even on the back of a napkin.

I’m happy to be proven wrong, but let’s see the math this time.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 15, 2019 3:59 am

“A Tesla Supercharger is a 480-volt DC fast-charging station built by American vehicle manufacturer Tesla Inc. for their all-electric cars. The Tesla Supercharger network of fast-charging stations was introduced beginning in 2012. as of January 2019, the electric vehicle network consisted of 12,011 individual Supercharger stalls at 1,422 locations
Each Supercharger stall pair has a connector to supply electrical power at up to 120 kW via a direct current connection to the 400-volt car battery pack.”

So the maximum draw from the existing 480-volt Tesla Supercharger is 120KW vs 6.6KW for the cited household laundry dryer. The power consumption ratio is 120/6.6 = 18 times.

March 13, 2019 6:49 am

Allan Macrae wrote, “If electric cars become commonplace,”
I believe it is not “if” but “when.” In any case it’s not going to happen overnight — no new technology becomes dominant overnight.

The technology adoption lifecycle is a sociological model that describes the adoption or acceptance of a new product or innovation, according to the demographic and psychological characteristics of defined adopter groups. The process of adoption over time is typically illustrated as a classical normal distribution or “bell curve”. The model indicates that the first group of people to use a new product is called “innovators”, followed by “early adopters”. Next come the early majority and late majority, and the last group to eventually adopt a product are called “Laggards” or “phobics.” For example, a phobic may only use a cloud service when it is the only remaining method of performing a required task, but the phobic may not have an in-depth technical knowledge of how to use the service.

We haven’t run out of bandwidth to power our phones.

John Dilks
Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 7:04 am

Big difference between phones and cars.

Reply to  John Dilks
March 13, 2019 7:54 am

Yes, they are different. We don’t run twisted copper wires from our houses and businesses to a central switch for phones any more. They’ve been replaced by new infrastructure — coax, fiber, cellular and satellite. 5G soon. New stuff.

TV used to be delivered over the air. Now we have cable. New stuff.

Electric cars will not depend on tank trucks to deliver gasoline. They’ll depend on electricity delivered through wires. Which we already know how to do. More of the same.

Reply to  John Dilks
March 13, 2019 8:38 am

“More of the same.”

There in lies the problem that you are trying to pretend doesn’t exist.
Beefing up the electrical infrastructure so that it can handle 2 to 3 times as much power is not cheap.

Reply to  John Dilks
March 13, 2019 11:21 am

MarkW wrote, “Beefing up the electrical infrastructure so that it can handle 2 to 3 times as much power is not cheap.”

From a McKinsey study …

Total charging-energy demand for the EV vehicle population across China, Europe, and the United States could grow dramatically from 2020 to 2030, increasing from roughly 20 billion kilowatt-hours to about 280 billion kilowatt-hours (Exhibit 2). This estimate reflects assumed EV adoption, total miles driven per year, and the average kilowatt-hours required per mile (a miles-per-gallon equivalent). While 280 billion kilowatt-hours sounds like a big number, it represents less than 10 percent of current US energy demand while reflecting the requirements of all four markets.

It turns out that when you look at some actual numbers it’s not that big a deal.

Reply to  John Dilks
March 13, 2019 12:40 pm

So they are assuming that percentage of miles driven by electric cars increases from sub 1% to what, 5%?

Reply to  John Dilks
March 13, 2019 4:20 pm

MarkW wrote, “So they are assuming that percentage of miles driven by electric cars increases from sub 1% to what, 5%?”

Did you follow the link and read the study? Do a little work. Read a little. You might learn something.

On second thought, probably not.

Reply to  John Dilks
March 14, 2019 7:13 am

If they are assuming more than that, then they are completely delusional.
Which would also explain their inability to do basic math.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 7:36 am


With comments like that, you have demonstrated your lack of intelligence.

You will never be my broker.

March 13, 2019 7:57 am

Allan Macrae wrote, “With comments like that, you have demonstrated your lack of intelligence.”

Thank you for your well reasoned and insightful comment. I’ll try to do better in the future.

Allan Macrae further wrote, “You will never be my broker.”

I’m crushed.

March 13, 2019 8:39 am

When you spout nonsense, don’t be surprised or hurt, when someone points that out.

Reply to  rovingbroker
March 13, 2019 8:37 am

“We haven’t run out of bandwidth to power our phones.”

Thank you for proving that you haven’t the foggiest clue as to what you are talking about.

Data can be compressed, electricity can’t.
Data can be spread out over many frequencies, electricity can only run on the wires provided.
Extra antennas can be added to spread the load, we are stuck with the wires we got.

Reply to  MarkW
March 13, 2019 11:33 am

MarkW wrote “Thank you for proving that you haven’t the foggiest clue as to what you are talking about.”

Please see my comment above about how little additional electrical power will likely be required for the expected 2030 fleet of EVs.

Before commenting I do a little research and provide links to authoritative sources. My clues are far from foggy.

Reply to  MarkW
March 13, 2019 12:40 pm

The article you quote doesn’t say what you believe it to say.

Wallaby Geoff
March 13, 2019 4:06 am

Autonomous vehicles sound like a solution searching for a problem.
My guess is that they will be programmed to drive defensively, causing giant traffic jams.
I for one could not relax in a car driven by the much trumpeted ‘artificial intelligence’, give me a competent human any day.
I think any widespread use of AVs is a very long way off. The people who think this is a great idea do not understand computer technology. I worked in it for years and there used to be a joke :
“If architects designed buildings like programmers wrote programs, the first woodpecker that came along would destroy civilisation”.

March 13, 2019 4:09 am

Autonomous vehicles, yet another fantasy.
1) Manufacturers can barely create are reliable non-autonomous vehicles. How many recalls and glitches come with a new vehicles these days? Answer – lots. That’s OK with a vehicle with an intelligent driver to compensate. With an autonomous vehicle, not so much.
2) Technicians cane barely keep the current crop of new cars running. Failures of software, sensors, and updates are annoying with a contemporary automobile. They would be fatal with an autonomous vehicle.
3) States and the federal government are not maintaining roads very well right now. There is a wide discrepancy in road design and maintenance. Road markings are poorly maintained, designs vary widely from state to state. Annoying and difficult in a piloted car, likely fatal in an autonomous vehicle.
4) Urban driving will prove to be an obstacle. Have you driven in Toronto lately? Toronto’s older streets are crowed, narrow, and extremely busy. Biking is burgeoning, so bikes dart in and out of traffic. The fashionable urban color is black. At night black clad pedestrians and bikers share the narrow, crowded and non standard roads with each other. Winter adds another whole layer of confusion and hazard.

Reply to  Viator
March 13, 2019 5:05 am

Not to mention: blizzards, fog, dusty roads, snowy/icy roads, heavy rain, mud, crazy pedestrians, dito bikers, wildlife etc.

I’ve got collision warning sensors in my new car, every so often, particularly in winter, it beeps at me and tells me the sensors are inoperative due to snow, ice, mud etc. It doesn’t matter much, they are nice to have, but I can do without them. What does an AV do? Just stop and wait for somebody to come and clean it up? Or can it scrape its own windshield, figuratively speaking? And what happens when it is overtaken by a truck and suddenly gets a load of slush splashed all over?

Greg Cavanagh
Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 7:55 pm

Flooded roads, or even heavy rain and roads awash with water.

There are a great many things to be solved before they could be considered reliable. And the maintenance schedule will double the cost of owning one.

Reply to  Viator
March 13, 2019 5:21 am

Puts taxi drives out of business!!!

Russ Wood
Reply to  Viator
March 13, 2019 8:43 am

And in South Africa, mad, irresponsible drivers (frequently mini-bus taxis) add their own particular brand of danger, by treating all traffic control (like stop signs and traffic lights) as optional! My wife reckons that there must be a lot of GOOD drivers in SA, because we only kill about 14000 people on the roads per year. Autonomous? I think not!

March 13, 2019 4:21 am

That’s fantasyland.

March 13, 2019 4:34 am

All very well were it left to the market to sort out naturally. Like the transformation from horse drawn carriages to the ICE motor vehicle which was considered a boon because it avoided the tons of horse shit piling up on the roads causing a considerable health hazard.

Allowing governments to interfere in any way, be it by policy or subsidies, is a recipe for disaster as they have a dismal track record of successful technology selection.

We have the instruction from our government in the UK that all new vehicles sold after 2040 will be electric however, we know that’s a lie as what they actually mean is that hybrids will be accepted as ‘electric’ vehicles.

The problem is that a recent study of business owned, plug in hybrids, found that no one bothered plugging them in and just ran them almost exclusively on the ICE. In other words, dragging round an unused, heavy, expensive battery. But our government didn’t think to do such mundane research before making their grand, virtue signalling announcement.

And whilst the London community howls that their air is ‘dirty’ and they need electric vehicles, we all know the truth, EV’s are coal or gas powered, their charges coming from fossil fuelled power stations. Which might be OK, were it not for the fact that there is not one meaningful power station within the M25 (the motorway complex surrounding London about 20 miles out) they are all located in more rural areas. But Londoners don’t think about displacement of their pollution, they just want ‘clean air’

Ironically, they won’t get it!

Only 5% of NOx in London comes from private diesel cars. “Trucks, taxis and public transport represent an even greater proportion. Public transport hubs: e.g., railway and bus stations and Thames shipping are also major contributors. However, 38% originated from commercial and domestic heating systems. Indeed, the overwhelming proportions of all the problem urban emissions: NO2, NOx, PM2.5s & PM10s arise from industry, commercial and domestic heating systems, plus “imported” emissions blown in from Europe. (My emphasis)

I suspect almost every city in the world will have similar numbers.

Once again, government policy fails, in this case, even before it’s begun!

Michael Lemaire
March 13, 2019 4:45 am

Any improvement to a given traffic situation simply results in attracting more people to use the improved facility till the traffic gets back to the previous situation.

Reply to  Michael Lemaire
March 13, 2019 5:08 am

Only true if there is an unlimited supply of people.

Reply to  tty
March 13, 2019 8:45 am

It can also happen when the same number of people decide to take extra trips.

March 13, 2019 5:34 am

I already have a well managed autonomous vehicle sitting outside my flat. It actually does what it is told and rarely argues. When it does it is usually due to my bad management.

Judi Greenwald’s researches into the bottom of a bottle of plonk are a total waste of time.
Transport is an individual thing. Curtail it at your peril.

Dr. Bob
March 13, 2019 5:38 am

I wish these university researchers would be more precise in their terminology. Vehicles today are so clean that any further reduction in emissions would be a pointless waste in cost and reduction in fuel efficiency. CO2 is not a regulate component of vehicle emissions, so it is totally misleading to state that “We need fuel economy standards to ensure the cars are clean, …” This gives the general public a very misleading view of what is actually going on. And it is the poor, often deliberately poor choice of terminology that causes people to make the wrong decisions. Thus the demonizing of CO2 by calling it a pollutant in automotive exhaust. It simply is not a pollutant by any official definition of the term.

Reply to  Dr. Bob
March 13, 2019 1:12 pm

Also, automovil already means autonomous vehicle, nobody knows latin in academia a y more?

March 13, 2019 5:45 am

This is truly an idea ripe for giggles and satire.

I don’t own a POV right now. The cost to rent, including insurance, on an as-needed basis is far lower than the cost to own, which includes fuel, insurance, maintenance, repairs, and license fees, among other things. I can also, if necessary, send a grocery order to the store where I shop and have it delivered, and on a cold, nasty winter day, that sounds delightful and is certainly less costly than owning a car.

A fleet of AVs called on an as-needed basis is impractical, because I don’t think that stupid thing would wait for me while I’m getting groceries, hitting the pet store for cat food, and getting out at 5AM with a camera to go to the nearest wetland by sunrise and get pix of the green herons fishing in the ponds. Nor would fellow passengers take kindly to riding with someone who is covered in mud and sticktights up to her knees.

Nope, AVs are fine for city dwellers, but not out here in the sticks. 🙂 And this idea, which does not seem to include awareness of city transportation that IS available, is just plain silly. I don’t think these people really have enough to do. This is just ripe for ridicule.

March 13, 2019 5:51 am

This video is 2 years old folks and you reckon they won’t be any good out in the sticks on the highway?

John Dilks
Reply to  observa
March 13, 2019 7:02 am

Nope, they won’t work in the real world.

Reply to  observa
March 13, 2019 8:25 am

The world is not all well-maintained highways and nice weather dear observa.

Reply to  observa
March 13, 2019 8:48 am

Consider the number of crashes that have been caused by autonomous vehicles out here in the real world.

Reply to  MarkW
March 13, 2019 12:13 pm

MarkW: What is the number of crashes that have been caused by autonomous vehicles out here in the real world? With reference(s) please.

Human piloted vehicles have caused quite a few.

There were 34,247 fatal motor vehicle crashes in the United States in 2017 in which 37,133 deaths occurred. This resulted in 11.4 deaths per 100,000 people and 1.16 deaths per 100 million miles traveled. The fatality rate per 100,000 people ranged from 4.5 in the District of Columbia to 23.1 in Mississippi.

In 2015, there were some 6.3 million fatal, injury, and property damage crashes that occurred in the U.S. alone.

Reply to  MarkW
March 13, 2019 12:42 pm

What is it about you and your eagerness to spout meaningless numbers?

What matters is not absolute numbers but relative numbers.
Perhaps when you learn the difference you will understand how clueless you are.

Reply to  MarkW
March 13, 2019 4:35 pm

MarkW asked, “Consider the number of crashes that have been caused by autonomous vehicles out here in the real world.” Turns out he didn’t want real numbers. Rather he wanted “relative” numbers. It’s not that simple MarkW.

After adjusting for under-reporting of accidents, researchers Brandon Schoettle and Michael Sivak found that:
o Autonomous Vehicles (AVs) got into more crashes overall: 9.1 crashes per million miles driven, compared with 4.1 crashes per million miles for conventional vehicles.
o AVs had a higher rate of injury per crash: 0.36 injuries per crash, compared with 0.25 for conventional vehicles.
o AVs weren’t responsible for any of the crashes they were involved in.
o Most AV crashes were low-speed, and the ones involving injury were minor compared with the injuries sustained during conventional vehicle crashes.

Compared with conventional vehicles, AVs mostly got into low-speed rear-ending crashes, as opposed to the more violent, higher-speed, head-on and T-bone crashes that cause worse injuries and fatalities. The AVs also didn’t hit pedestrians or bicyclists in any of the incidents, something that happens regularly with human-driven vehicles.

It’s complicated. Probably too complicated for MarkW.

Dodgy Geezer
March 13, 2019 6:00 am

“….Widespread use of autonomous vehicles (AVs) could either massively increase or drastically cut greenhouse gas emissions …”

Covers their bets pretty well!

Princeton University had a total income of somewhat over $27bn last year. Worth every penny…

Reply to  Dodgy Geezer
March 13, 2019 8:28 am

That’s the endowment not the income, big difference!

March 13, 2019 6:12 am

You can ride in any colour fuel efficient autonomous vehicle you wish, so long as there are at least 3 other people in the 4 seat vehicle, the as long as the colour is white. Personal hygiene of your co riders is optional

March 13, 2019 6:26 am

You can see that AVs will be expensive so it will make sense for their owners to amortise the cost with paywave per km and when you’re a registered user you will be monitored and both provide feedback on the vehicle and your fellow riders and you will in turn receive feedback. You want the basic people mover and share with say 10 or 12 others or the Roller alone that’s up to you. You only want to share with 5 Star riders or 4 or 3 the price per km varies accordingly.

Now think ahead with 50% penetration and by now your old analogue car is copping usurious rego and third party insurance and ditto the comprehensive and the authorities want a hefty drivers licence fee and user pays annual testing to continue with it. All because you are the extremely costly weak link out there on the roads and the standing cost of all the analogue cars in your driveway is becoming increasingly onerous with no respite in sight as their resale value keeps plummeting.

That’s how it will accelerate from a low first adopter base although already it’s happening by degrees with the increasing technology in the showrooms taking more and more decision-making out of the driver’s hands. But it’s pure economics that will drive it all skyward once a critical mass is achieved and devil take the hindmost.

March 13, 2019 6:48 am

With increasing majority penetration of AVs the statistics will become self evident that like busses trans and trams now they no longer need Takata airbags, explosive seat belts or even bub capsules and kiddy seats. not much future in the crash repair industry or for analogue drivers and although the traffic fine revenue has fallen off a cliff the massive offset savings are showing up with the road toll. We old clutchers with the past live in interesting times but long charge time EVs face a new challenge with these call up cars and their amortisation. Nothing like a Formula one type fill up with the fossils and back on the job earning its keep.

March 13, 2019 7:01 am

If our leftist politicians get substantially involved in constructing Public Policy…I’ll put my money on Disaster.

Lefties do EVERYTHING for their own political gain….so everything they touch eventually becomes a disaster.

March 13, 2019 7:02 am

Pedestrians beware!


The cannabis rides are here…..with tax credits.

March 13, 2019 7:13 am

Fuel Economy or Energy Economy.
There is a difference.

March 13, 2019 7:25 am

I love how all the “right thinking folks” pushing AVs ignore what will almost immediately be big business for some, the robbing of AVs who are boxed in and stationary. It happens on a daily basis in most big cities to commuters unable to do anything but sit there and take it – with the notable exception of those who take the concept ‘You Are Your Own First Responder’ seriously and have weapons ready.

Steve O
March 13, 2019 7:33 am

It seems to me that the most logical place for a widescale rollout of autonomous vehicles would be in truck fleets on the interstate highways. Drivers could drive manually in city traffic or in more highly congested areas, and be on hand to deal with an emergency or a breakdown. Perhaps when running loads from depot to depot, one driver could be responsible for several rigs.

The commercial benefits are much greater, while the technical problems are much smaller.

March 13, 2019 8:04 am

‘“We need public policy to ensure that we align the economic incentives with what we want from a societal perspective,” said Greenwald. “It’s really up to us.”’

It’s up to them to make sure that society develops as they want it to.
The arrogance of these guys is mind blowing.

Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
March 13, 2019 8:28 am

“We need public policy to ensure that we align the economic incentives with what we want from a societal perspective,” said Greenwald. “It’s really up to us.”

Who is “We,” and why is what they want such a great thing?

Spoiler alert: “We” are Greenwald and the policy wonks of Princeton, whose desires trump everyone else’s because, well, they’re just that much smarter and better than we are.

Richard Patton
Reply to  Michael S. Kelly LS, BSA Ret.
March 13, 2019 2:32 pm

After the indictments the FBI put out yesterday about how some get into places like Princeton one has his doubts about their competence to do anything.

Thomas Homer
March 13, 2019 8:30 am

What would a wild fire evacuation look like with autonomous vehicles?

Tom in Florida
March 13, 2019 8:59 am

And what happens when these vehicles start to say things like “I’m sorry, Dave. I’m afraid I can’t do that”

March 13, 2019 9:15 am

The professionals and people posting in wuwt are some smart science professionals. When are you going to get into the reality there will be no humans or biology. It sounds nice to call it wireless communication, these are microwave EMFs and we aren’t electrically compatible. Brainwaves at 7.8 Hz, .2 Hz when sleeping or healing and microwaves millions or billions of cycles.

Here is what Boeing Engineers used for safety of Wi-Fi in airplanes.

Reply to  Professor Curtis Bennett
March 13, 2019 9:54 am

Should have used chocolate bars!

bill McCarter
March 13, 2019 9:19 am

The biggest benefactor from these vehicles will be the Bars and Caberets. No more DUI charges.

Gordon Clarke
March 13, 2019 9:23 am

Currently reading “No one at the wheel” which warns of the impending arrival of AV’s. It will be a difficult process with many surprises and unanticipated consequences. The conflict between pedestrians, cyclists and AV’s will be a major battle ground and will likely require major changes to city and highway design. Lets hope we can get on top of this without playing too many win/lose games!

Steven Mosher
March 13, 2019 9:32 am

” found that the best way to ensure a good outcome is to deploy AVs in managed fleets rather than as personal vehicles”


#1. Google can ban employees from driving to work and just have its fleet of AVs drive employees to work
and then take off during the day to steal business from Uber.
#2. The EPA can also ban employees from driving and do the same thing.

Seems like a good experiment. no harm in letting google and an the EPA employees show us how this will work.

old construction worker
March 13, 2019 10:13 am

Drive by the wire: Looking at my crystal ball I predict traffic will move at the slowest possible speed. Think about it.

March 13, 2019 11:32 am

So did the AV have to stand in line at the DMV like I did with my kids? Did it have to run around gathering documents to get a license? Breaking in line has its advantages.

Dave Smith
March 13, 2019 3:57 pm

Wow! I can’t wait to get my hands on this new autonomous BMW motorcycle…

Oh, wait! …… Never Mind!

Alan Davidson
March 13, 2019 4:29 pm

Any one know how these things are supposed to operate in North American winters with snow covered highways? How do they follow lanes or sense the highway edge?

Reply to  Alan Davidson
March 13, 2019 7:35 pm

You Yanks been paying attention on your doorstep?

It’s already on the waymo just like interactive cruise, lane guidance, remote parking, AEB for cars and pedestrians, rain sensing wipers, headlight sensing yada yada… The latest Hyundai Sorrento won’t even let passengers out the door if something’s coming with all their acronyms-

If you’re thinking of getting a new analogue ICE car you’d better think carefully about shelling out for all the latest safety fruit like that with a view to ownership costs and resale in a few years time or you’re going to take a big financial hit. In Oz where we were dragging our feet with autos even the value of manual cars has dropped off a cliff in the last 5 years and carmakers have responded accordingly with their model offerings.

Get with the program as they’re progressively going to get rid of the weak link with an economic sledgehammer as the stats show up in bodily and property insurance costs for the analogue clunkers. AVs don’t have to be 100% autonomous or safe just yet but just multiples safer than you old timer getting left behind and paying through the nose.

What would you rather get in? The tube bus or tram with a cast of anonymous 100s or a few 5 star like feedbacks in the people mover? Send me the autonomous Roller as I feel like being alone in luxury today with the platinum Uber.

Reply to  observa
March 13, 2019 7:38 pm

Oops! Santa Fe but they’re all getting the same.

Reply to  observa
March 14, 2019 8:59 am

“Waymo One is rolling out in the Metro Phoenix area first.”

Is it purely coincidental that Phoenix is just about the only major snow-free city in the US? And with less than two rainy days per month?

Shawn Marshall
March 14, 2019 5:19 am

I am very hopeful for autonomous vehicles – especially useful for the elderly.
It would be great to have an automated 12 hr drive to Chicago so we could relax.
Highway speeds could likely increase.
Lane changes and beserko road warriors could be eliminated.
Fatalities would decrease dramatically.
Insurance rates would decrease.
Night time driving for seniors or the blind would be a benefit.
Deer strikes could likely be radically reduced. (this is a huge problem by the way)
Pub and restaurant business would benefit greatly.
If you had a little buzzer to ferry you wherever you wanted to go in urban areas – parking could be eliminated – think of that waste of space and expense.
People could still have their cherished chariots and take little buzzers for beater travel.
What’s not to like?

March 19, 2019 10:54 am

Erm.. I bring it up again. What about insurance ? I signal for an AV and it doesn’t arrive. People come round and ask what I’ve done with it. Its had a minor malfunction or my postcode is actually rather extensive. (True) . Someone else takes it and goes to say Croydon. Do I pay? How does it know it’s me? Who is the insurer? What premium? Endless shambles. Never happen

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