Will the introduction of autonomous vehicles really reduce emissions?

haydn.thompson Friday October 27, 2017

With the transportation sector emitting over 25% of CO2 globally the implementation of the Copenhagen agreement targets a decrease in European emissions by 30% from 1990 levels by 2020. Both consumer demand and government regulation are driving the transportation sector to use less energy, emit fewer harmful emissions and utilise an increased mix of sustainable energy sources (such as biofuels, electricity). It is argued that increased automation and connectivity of vehicles to each other and to infrastructure will lead to more efficient traffic flow movement with consequent reductions in emissions (CO2 and cancer causing PM10s) and congestion in urban areas. One of the key areas where CPS is likely to have an impact is in reduction of overall emissions from vehicles through much more efficient management of traffic and movement of goods. Here CPS could be used to improve fleet management of vehicles optimising load and travel costs of vehicles while at the same reducing energy usage and costs. Already logistics companies are employing sophisticated route optimisation algorithms to achieve this. An added benefit of more efficient mobility is a reduction of emissions, air pollution, congestion, accidents and noise. Certainly improved traffic management and better coordination/optimisation of logistics will reduce the number of partly filled and empty trucks operating on Europe’s roads. This would have a significant impact on emissions through reduction in fuel burn. Additionally, scheduling of goods traffic movements to avoid congestion in big cities to avoid operation in stop/start rush hour traffic would also have a major impact. Repeated stopping and starting for a truck results in considerably higher emission levels, and generates PM10s which is a particular concern in cities. Going a step further deliveries could be bundled to reduce congestion and through efficient sharing even more reductions in fuel and emissions would be possible. So it is possible to make savings in fuel consumption and emissions through the use of telematics and more efficient operations. Here the challenge is to provide optimised services while also meeting customer demands for tighter delivery times. There is a trade-off between this and the need to provide energy-minimal logistics to reduce emissions. This is driving the need for optimisation at a systems of systems level. So what does the future hold? Certainly technology and increased interconnectivity is helping us to reduce emissions, but looking further in the future, with increased awareness of the environmental issues, the next step could well be a change in public attitude with customers demanding information on the carbon footprint of goods adding yet another optimisation parameter for logistics companies.

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