It’s the year 2030. You touch a button on your phone, and a driverless taxi pulls up and takes you where you need to go. Sound like science fiction?

Greenblatt: “It’s interesting. It’s actually quickly becoming science fact. A few decades from now, it could be commonplace for almost everybody to be driven by a computer-controlled car.”

That’s Jeffery Greenblatt of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. He says autonomous cars will likely improve safety and reduce carbon emissions because computers drive more efficiently than humans.

A computerized car can anticipate traffic, and optimize its route and speed accordingly. It can accelerate and brake more smoothly. And it can follow other driverless cars closely, reducing wind drag.

When used as a taxi cab, Greenblatt says there’s a strong economic incentive for the driverless vehicle to be electric.

Greenblatt: “Because they’re much more efficient and so they actually cost the company less to own and operate, and those savings can be passed on to the consumer as well.”

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Efficiency gains will also come from using the right-sized vehicle for each trip. He estimates by the year 2030, a driverless taxi could emit 90 percent fewer emissions per mile than the average 2014, gas-powered, privately-owned car.

Reporting credit: ChavoBart Digital Media.
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Diana Madson

Diana Madson contributed regularly to Yale Climate Connections from 2014 to 2021. She enjoys exploring U.S.-based stories about unexpected and innovative solutions to climate change. In addition to her...