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Self-driving taxis powered by electricity and dispatched according to a passenger’s needs may help dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions as early as the year 2030, a new study suggests.
A team of researchers found that robocabs –- think Uber but with no one in the driver’s seat –- could decrease vehicle emissions by up to 94 percent per mile compared to today’s taxis, according to the study published in Nature Climate Change.
If just 10 percent of rides currently taken in cars were made in robocabs, that would translate to a savings of about 1 percent of total U.S. carbon dioxide emissions in 2030, said study coauthor Jeffrey Greenblatt, a staff scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
And that’s assuming that cars have better emissions standards fifteen years from now. Replacing 10 percent of taxis on the road today with robocabs would cut as much as 2 percent of greenhouse gas emissions, Greenblatt said.
Greenblatt says the cuts in emissions could rise if more Americans start to see robocabs as a sensible alternative to driving themselves. “You could be reading a book or texting while driving across town,” he said.
Ultimately, the portion of car rides taken in robocabs could go as high as 50 percent, Greenblatt said.
A big part of why robocabs could help drive emissions down is that companies could send the vehicles out based on how many passengers request a ride. So a single person would end up in a smaller cab, while a group would warrant a larger one.
An estimated 19 percent of U.S. CO2 emissions currently come from cars and light trucks, Greenblatt said.