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Energy Systems Analysis of Autonomous Vehicles


Autonomous vehicles have the potential to provide transportation services that are currently offered by buses, taxis and delivery vehicles.  A recent global market analysis by Navigant Consulting reported the “industry consensus is that autonomous driving will be available by 2020.” Yet, many hurdles exist for implementation including safety and liability concerns as well as economic and regulatory issues.  The Center for Sustainable Systems is developing models to assess the environmental sustainability performance of an autonomous vehicle system compared to existing alternatives such as taxis, buses, and personal vehicles as a better solution to the “last mile problem”.  Information on vehicle control parameters is lacking in this study.  The objective of the proposed research would be to better define vehicle design and operation parameters for LCA modeling in order to better simulate autonomous vehicle impacts for last mile commuting in Ann Arbor.   The study will also explore vehicle fueling/charging options.

Scenarios will be developed to explore the environmental sustainability performance of the autonomous vehicle compared to conventional alternatives such as taxis, personal vehicles, and buses.  The scenarios will define vehicle characteristics, logistics, vehicle occupancy, and fueling/charging parameters.   Life cycle energy and greenhouse gas emissions will be evaluated for these scenarios.  Analysis of these results will determine the key system parameters that influence environmental performance of the autonomous vehicle compared to conventional options.

Ford Motor Company