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Drivers who used autopilot drove an average of nearly 5,000 more miles per year than those who didn’t. In an interview with 36 drivers of partially automated vehicles, they generally said they were more willing to sit in traffic and took more long-distance trips. Image viaThomas Hawk/FlickrviaCC BY-NC 2.0

多年来,自动驾驶汽车技术一直在诱人的范围内。尽管有大胆的预测, fully automated vehicles still haven’t appeared in showrooms. But the technology appears poised for a leap forward in 2022.


自动车辆具有巨大的希望。汽车处理大多数或所有驾驶任务could be safer than human drivers, operate more efficiently and open up new opportunities for seniors, people with disabilities and others who can’t drive themselves. But while attention has understandablyfocused on safety,自动化车辆的潜在环境影响很大程度上是后排座椅。

我们学习automated vehicle technologies消费者如何使用它们。In two recent studies, our research teams found two creative ways to assess the real-life impacts that automated vehicles could have on the environment.


More miles, more carbon emissions

Research has previously suggested that automated vehicles could cause people to drive more than they currently do, leading to更多的拥塞,能耗和污染。Riding in a car as a passenger is much less stressful than driving, so people might be willing to sit through longer trips and battle more traffic if they can relax and do other things during the journey. The promise of a relaxed, comfortable commute to work could even make some people move farther away from their workplaces and accelerate suburban sprawl trends.

People would also have the ability to send their cars on "zero-occupancy" trips, or errands without passengers. For example, if you don’t want to pay for parking downtown, at some point you may be able to send your car back home while you’re at work and summon it when you need it. Convenient, but also twice the driving.

这可能是一个大问题。运输部门已经美国温室气体排放的主要贡献者。States such as California with aggressive plans to combat climate change have recognized that减少人们旅行的车辆数英里的数量是一个关键策略。如果自动化的车辆技术使实现这些目标变得更加困难怎么办?

The real-world environmental impacts of automated cars

While we and other researchers have通过建模预测这些结果, no one has been able to verify them because fully automated vehicles aren’t commercially available yet. We found two innovative ways to use currently available technologies to study the real-world impacts of automated vehicles.

Having a car available when needed could make it possible to forgo car ownership and could serve travel demand much more efficiently.

In a study published in mid-2021, we surveyed 940people who drive partially automated vehicles。诸如特斯拉的自动驾驶仪可以协助驾驶任务并减轻驾驶的负担,尽管程度比全自动车辆要少。

We found that drivers who used Autopilot drove an average of每年比那些没有。在接受36个部分自动化车辆的驾驶员的采访中,他们通常说他们更愿意坐在交通中,并进行了更多的长途旅行,这一切都是因为增加舒适性和减轻压力由半自动化系统提供。

在另一项研究在2019年末和耳朵ly 2020, we simulated the function of a fully automated vehicle by providing 43 households in Sacramento, California, with a chauffeur service to take over the family driving duties and tracking how they used it. These householdsincreased their vehicle miles traveled by 60 percent在他们的chauffeur旅行中,并大大减少了他们对运输,骑自行车和步行的使用。车辆旅行增加的一半以上涉及在没有家庭成员的零占用旅行中派遣司机。


These findings show that automated vehicles will encourage a lot more driving in the future and that partially automated vehicles are doing so now. Is there any way to reap its benefits without making climate change, air quality and congestion worse?

要求将来的自动化车辆使用零排放技术,就像加利福尼亚在做, can be a big help. But until the U.S. develops a100%无碳电力系统,即使是电动汽车也会产生发电的一些上游排放。和所有汽车旅行原因other harmful impacts, such as water and air pollution from brake and tire wear, collisions with wildlife and traffic congestion.


今天有这种影响的主要政策是联邦和州燃料税, which currently average around 49 cents per gallon for gasoline and 55 cents per gallon for diesel fuel. But the impact of fuel taxes on drivers’ behavior will decline with the adoption and spread of electric vehicles. This means that the transportation sector will need to develop new funding mechanisms for ongoing costs such as maintaining roads.


这些费用可以根据位置进行调整 - 例如,收取更多费用以驱车进入密集的城市中心,或其他因素,例如一天中的时间,交通拥堵水平,车辆占用和车辆类型。现代通信技术可以通过跟踪汽车在道路上的何时何地来实现此类政策。

A car approaches an overhead billboard displaying time of day and prices for cars and trucks to enter the regulated zone.

Singapore uses electronic road pricing to reduce congestion and regulate traffic flow in the city. The cost to enter the restricted zone varies with location and timing. Image viaCalvin Chan Wai Meng /Getty Images


All of these policies will be most effective if they are adopted now, before automated vehicles are widespread. A transportation future that is automated, electric and shared could be environmentally sustainable — but in our view, it’s unlikely to evolve that way on its own.

本文从对话under a Creative Commons license.

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