There’s no doubt that self-driving cars are coming and that they’ll come in many different forms, but a likely consequence of their rise is a drop in car ownership.
Supporting this theory, a team of researchers has said that by 2030 autonomous taxis could be much cheaper than those that are driven by mere humans.
The scientists, from Lawrence Berkley National Lab, US, have said that if just five percent of vehicle sales in 15 years time were shifted to autonomous taxis, we would be able to save seven million barrels of oil each year.
Cities filled with self-driving taxis (self-driving Ubers, if you will) could also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by up to 90%, when compared to today’s levels.
“When we first started looking at autonomous vehicles, we found that, of all the variables we could consider, the use of autonomous vehicles as part of a shared transit system seemed to be the biggest lever that pointed to lower energy use per mile,” said Jeffery Greenblatt.
The researchers’ calculations were published in the latest Nature Climate Change journal, where they estimate the greenhouse-gas emissions and costs of autonomous taxis between 2014 and 2030.
These taxis could take the shape of one or two seater vehicles that are smaller than current cars, which could ferry people across short city distances.
There’s obviously a long way to go until any autonomous taxis are able to exist and operate on our roads – driverless cars are still only at the earliest stages of testing on public roads.
Despite this, the researchers said that they autonomous taxis could be cheaper to run as they could be powered by hydrogen fuel cells or electric batteries. As well as this a self-driving taxi would be cheaper, as the owners wouldn’t have to pay a pesky human to drive it, meaning it is less likely to crash.
As well as this, they say that autonomous taxis “could considerably decrease our need for parking spaces” in cities.
“Two potentially important implications of decreased parking are decreases in municipal parking revenues, and increases in VMT [vehicle miles travelled] as AVs [autonomous vehicles] travel additional distances between parking locations and passengers,” they write in supplementary information to their study.
“On the other hand, VMT may decrease due to less time spent by drivers looking for parking”.
Featured image courtesy of Google.