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Many experts agree that driverless cars Here's How We'll Get to a World Filled With Driverless Cars Here's How We'll Get to a World Filled With Driverless Cars Driving is a tedious, dangerous, and demanding task. Could it one day be automated by Google's driverless car technology? Read More will play a key role in the future of transportation History is Bunk: The Future of Transportation Will Be Like Nothing You've Seen Before History is Bunk: The Future of Transportation Will Be Like Nothing You've Seen Before In a few decades, the phrase 'driverless car' is going to sound an awful lot like 'horseless carriage,' and the idea of owning your own car will sound as quaint as digging your own well. Read More , largely for safety See A Car Crash From the Perspective of Google's Self Driving Car See A Car Crash From the Perspective of Google's Self Driving Car Read More  reasons: most car accidents are caused by human error. However, a new study published in Nature Climate Change suggests that self-driving cars How Self-Driving Cars Will Change Transportation Forever How Self-Driving Cars Will Change Transportation Forever As we move into 2015, the question is no longer whether self-driving cars will replace manually driven cars, but how quickly they'll take over. Read More will also provide environmental benefits.

Specifically, researchers Jeffery B. Greenblatt and Samveg Saxena envision a future where electric driverless taxis, in various sizes, roam the streets to pick up a matching number of passengers. The result, the study says, is a fleet of cheaper and more environmentally friendly Stay Energy Efficient with 6 Smart Eco-Friendly Apps Stay Energy Efficient with 6 Smart Eco-Friendly Apps In the digital age, living green isn't only about recycling. A little goes a long way when you consciously cut your carbon footprint. You will be amazed how mobile apps can make that easier. Read More taxi cabs.

Let’s take a look at Greenblatt and Saxena’s taxi fleet of the future — circa 2030.

Just The Right Size

Google-Self-Driving-Car-Project

Today, most cab fares are single riders — but most cabs are one-size-fits-all, full-size sedans capable of seating four-plus passengers, along with a decent amount of storage space. The average passenger uses only a fraction of that space.

The study suggests that cutting down on storage space and extra seats (both for other passengers and the driver) would produce a more energy-efficient cab:

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For two-passenger trips, a 40% narrower vehicle was modeled, plus smaller reductions in vehicle mass, engine power, battery capacity and accessory loads that would accommodate only required passengers and cargo. For single-seat vehicles, frontal area was held constant, but additional reductions in mass, power and battery capacity were made. Simulation results for [battery-electric vehicles] indicate energy consumption relative to an average light-duty vehicle of 47% for one-passenger vehicles, and 56% for two-passenger vehicles.

A more efficient cab is cheaper to operate, and those savings can be passed on to passengers, who will only pay for the amount of seating and storage they need.

Powered By Electricity

Ride_and_Drive_EVs_Plug'n_Drive_Ontario

The researchers decided that their fleet of cabs would be powered by electricity, as that is the most efficient type of engine for vehicles driven 40,000 to 70,000 miles a year, which is typical for a taxi.

While electric vehicles are more expensive to purchase upfront, they are significantly cheaper to operate over time. Self-driving cars are also a good fit for electric car technology, as they can recharge themselves when not in use – without wasting human time.

The study estimates that 800,000 driverless electric taxis in 2030 could cut the demand for gasoline by about 7 million barrels of oil per year. It would also reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 2.1–2.4 million metric tons of CO2 per year.

The emissions reduction over cars we drive today would be 87 to 94 percent, and 63 to 82 percent over future hybrids.

Driverless

Google's_Lexus_RX_450h_Self-Driving_Car

Last but certainly not least, the cabs envisioned by the study would be completely autonomous. While this could have an environmental impact by reducing the size of the vehicles, and allowing for more efficient driving, the main driving force here is economic.

Lots of people are at risk of losing jobs to robots 8 Skilled Jobs That May Soon Be Replaced By Robots 8 Skilled Jobs That May Soon Be Replaced By Robots Are machines coming for your job? You might be surprised. Recent advances in AI are putting white collar jobs at risk. Read More , and cab drivers are no exception. The development of autonomous vehicles is a very real threat to people in the driving profession because it just makes good business sense for companies to make the switch. After all, why pay a human driver when the car itself can do the job just as well — or better?

“Shared self-driving car fleets will directly compete with urban taxi and public transport services, as currently organized,” said another study conducted by the OECD’s International Transport Forum. “Such fleets might effectively become a new form of low capacity, high quality public transport. This is likely to cause significant labor issues.”

Indeed, the transition will be neither smooth nor painless — but it is inevitable.

The Result: Cheaper, More Efficient Taxis

New_York_Taxi

The message is clear: by reducing the size of the cabs, powering them with electricity, and eliminating the driver, we could produce a fleet of highly efficient, environmentally friendly, and cheap (both to operate and to use) taxi cabs.

What do you think of this study and the coming fleet of self-driving electric cabs? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Image Credit: Google, Wikimedia Commons, Wikimedia Commons, Wikipedia

  1. fcd76218
    July 31, 2015 at 1:32 pm

    Driverless cars may cut emissions and they may cut the number of accidents. However, they cannot be considered a practical solution until they are made hacker-proof. See the latest issue of Wired magazine.

    BTW - it has been about 2 weeks since the Wired article about hacking late model cars came out but, as far as MUO is concerned, it didn't happen. Also unremarked/unreported by MUO have been the accidents that driverless cars have gotten into in the past couple of months. Do I detect a bias on the part of MUO towards reporting only the positive news about driverless cars?

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