Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Relinquishing private automobile ownership, and hoping the previous occupant of your autonomous electric vehicle taxi didn’t have lice.
Hitting the Books: How autonomous EVs could help solve climate change
Andrew Tarantola·Senior Editor
Sun, 29 November 2020, 2:30 am AEST
Climate change is far and away the greatest threat of the modern human era — a crisis that will only get worse the longer we dither — with American car culture as a major contributor to the nation’s greenhouse emissions. But carbon-neutralizing energy and solutions are already on the horizon and, in some more developed countries like Sweden, are already being deployed. In his latest book, Our Livable World, science and technology analyst Marc Shaus, takes readers on a fascinating tour of the emerging tools — from “smart highways” to jet fuel made from trash — that will not only help curb climate change but perhaps even usher in a new, more sustainable, livable world.
Depending on where you live, going electric may still be perceived as elitist or unnecessary. But neither of these stigmas can survive much longer. The more states roll out pro-EV regulations, build the necessary charging infrastructure, and offer incentives for buyers, the more these vehicles become a near-term solution for our transport problems. Many countries and individual regions have EV charging stations along major highways already or have those projects in development. Some of these charging stations even have the promise of being renewably powered. If publicly funded, they could also be free to use. Multiple larger global companies have likewise installed free EV charging stations in their parking lots for employees to use. Or, of course, to lure potential customers to parking lots with the promise of free electrons.
The promise of wireless charging tech for electric vehicles is not simply to save homeowners the hardship of plugging in their car at night—the real promise is encouraging public transit operators to transition with increasing ease. Taxi companies may scale up EV fleet ownership if they know that charging pad locations throughout cities will help them avoid re-routing back to the company HQ for power. Any city’s fleet vehicles could also employ this technology. Think, too, of stopping zones by hospitals, schools, and anywhere else people routinely idle. Analyses from experts see the global wireless EV charging market increasing from the $21.8 million it was in 2017 to about $1.4 billion by the year 2025.
You have likely heard about driverless cars, but for most auto market analysts, it seems to be a foregone conclusion that autonomous vehicles (AVs) will eventually dominate the market. In assessing expert analysis, Project Drawdown estimates that AVs will likely capture a market share of approximately 75 percent of cars on the road by the year 2040.
AVs can contribute to decarbonizing our transport sectors in a number of ways. For example, increased data coupled with connected vehicle systems can cut down on collisions, gridlock conditions, and potentially even the number of drivers on the road (more on that soon). Reducing collisions and idling cars can have direct implications for the footprint of remedying either.
Two cars exchanging the same data points in real time will essentially be able to “see around corners” with the situational awareness of where other cars on the road are. Hence, aside from reducing the number of drivers operating cars under the influence or falling asleep at the wheel, AV applications offer more safety through interconnectivity. We’ll also see gridlock improvement when AVs become connected to a larger, smarter set of citywide driving data for route optimization.
For these reasons, some industry commentators see the possibility of future AV ride-sharing services actually reducing the number of people who even purchase a car. After all, it may one day be cheaper to simply call an AEV from a shuttle service, which may have a fleet in motion at any moment; purchase a ride somewhere for smaller amounts of money than fuel, insurance, and possible monthly car payments; and then send the AV on its way. AVs equipped with charging commands could know in advance whether a pre-set passenger destination will deplete its energy reserves and signal operators that a trip back to a charging station may be necessary first.
…Read more: https://au.finance.yahoo.com/news/hitting-the-books-our-livable-world-marc-schaus-diversion-books-163013416.html
In my opinion, what is missing from this vision is a little engineering reality.
AI is nowhere near ready for controlling autonomous vehicles. As an expert software developer I’ve created useful commercial AI systems, some of them from scratch. I disagree with people who say AI is a myth, the systems are genuinely intelligent. But their intelligence is insect level intelligence.
Why don’t I trust insect level intelligence in charge of my vehicle? Because we all know what happens to insects when they encounter a situation beyond their ability to comprehend – they splat against the windscreen. Or in the case of AI insect autonomous vehicles they splat into obstacles, as occurred in Taiwan in May this year.
As for those contact less charger points, where will operators get the energy to power those charging points? Renewable systems which cannot reliably replace fossil fuel are in no position to provide additional energy for charging EVs. Add to that substantial transmission losses from wireless charging, and the situation becomes utterly absurd. Anyone who has used a wireless mobile charger knows how close the mobile has to be to the charger to receive energy. Even when the device is touching the charger there are substantial losses.
This apparent confusion between fantasy and reality is not unusual in renewable energy circles. Anyone who can do the math can calculate that renewable energy is not ready to power the modern world, and may never be ready. Yet billions of dollars are being wasted every year on the baseless green fantasy that if you spend enough cash on something which doesn’t make sense it will all work out.