Driverless Cars: What Impact Will They Have On Our Environment?

The concept of driverless cars has moved from the realm of science fiction to reality, and many companies are competing to build their own models. Some “experts” extol the way these automobiles are expected to revolutionize the transport industry.

How do Driverless Cars Work?

Basically, these automobiles are made up of three important components: a GPS system for getting current location and required directions, a system that detects dynamic road conditions and a way of turning information received from these two systems into appropriate actions.

The sensors used in the second system include cameras, lasers and radars that provide raw information about the surrounding. The system then processes the information received using advanced algorithms.

The third component, which is known as controller area network or CAN, translates the processed information into such actions as accelerating, braking and steering.

Benefits of Driverless Cars

One of the key areas mentioned when talking about the advantages of driverless cars is the reduction of accidents. Many accidents occur as a result of driver errors, especially in the present world filled with many distractions ranging from the use of various devices to thinking about other matters.

About six million auto crashes led to 32,788 traffic-related deaths in 2010. Ninety-three percent of the crashes were attributed to human error.

Your driverless car will give you the opportunity to “enjoy” your “distractions” as it “concentrates” on the road on your behalf. The car is designed with a pre-safe system that anticipates crashes and keeps you safe. The system responds faster than your reflexes can as it breaks the car and prepares things like airbags.

Impact of Driverless Cars on the Environment

Have you considered how much fuel you are wasting? According to a KPMG report, the average American commuter now spends 250 hours a year behind the wheel of a vehicle. A MIT Media Lab report states that Americans spend 40 percent of gasoline looking for parking in congested urban areas.

Some reports estimate that having only 10 percent of self-driving cars on the road would save 102 million gallons of gasoline, and doubling the percentage would lead to gasoline savings of about 724 million gallons (2.7 billion liters).

How Self-Driving Cars Save Fuel

The fuel savings would come in a number of ways. First of all, the driverless cars are designed to optimize the use of fuel. Improved driving efficiency also leads to less fuel consumption. For example, the cars park better than many drivers. This is important considering that the transportation industry is the second largest producer of greenhouse gases in the US.

Makers of self-driving cars do not often stress on the environmental impact. Instead, they usually emphasize that the technologies used will lead to better driving decisions that minimize accidents. However, improved driving efficiency also leads to lower fuel consumption. The cars eliminate unnecessary driving that result in higher emission of the harmful gases.

Did you know that your car is that heavy to protect you against possible injury in case of a collision? Since the driverless cars are intelligent enough to avoid collisions, they are relatively lighter, which consequently makes them more fuel efficient.


Driverless Cars Expected to Change Car Ownership Trends

Contrary to popular opinion that more people will purchase their own self-driving cars and negate the benefits, they are more likely to opt for autonomous taxi service. First of all, the cars are expensive to buy. Secondly, people will be less inclined to own multiple vehicles for different purposes if they can affordably get a suitable driverless car pick them where they are and drop them at personalized stops whenever the need arises.

Why would you need to waste resources by driving an automobile intended to carry four people when you are alone? This would significantly reduce carbon emissions associated with both the manufacture and use of cars.

On the other hand, people are likely to drive more not just in terms of the number of miles a car covers but also the number of people using them. They will provide a great opportunity for those who cannot drive for one reason or another.

Driverless cars have become a reality? Would you own or use one?

Images via 1 & 2                                   Bob Gorman, the author of this article, is a freelance writer

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