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Self-driving taxis may be the key to cutting greenhouse gases


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You may think that self-driving cars are mostly useful for reducing accident rates and freeing your time, but they might just help save the environment, too. Berkeley Lab researchers have published a study which suggests that switching the transportation grid from conventional vehicles to autonomous electric taxis would cut greenhouse gas emission levels up to 90 percent by 2030. While the clean EV powerplants would play a large part, the switch away from privately-owned cars that would make nearly as much of a difference. A big key would be "right-sizing" trips -- since you'd usually just need a tiny car to get around, you could avoid getting into a big vehicle until it's necessary. The base data doesn't even include some of the efficiencies that are inherent to robotic cars, like optimized routes and closely-packed traffic that cuts wind resistance.

Of course, this assumes ideal conditions. It'd require a wholesale infrastructure switch in just 15 years, which isn't terribly likely when both EV and autonomous technologies are just getting started. This also assumes that everyone cooperates -- even if you don't mind giving up control, there would be plenty of professional drivers losing their jobs. However, scientists are quick to add that even a modest switch could have a tangible impact. If self-driving taxis made up 5 percent of 2030's estimated car sales (about 800,000 machines), they'd cut carbon dioxide missions by up to 2.4 million tons per year. In other words, every little bit could help.

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