Optimistic predictions expect reliable autonomous vehicles to be commercially available by 2030, at a time when mobility is undergoing a profound shift away from traditional modes of transportation and towards door-to-door services. Previous analysis suggested that public transport will lose market share to autonomous vehicles, but the environmental impact of changing transport use has hardly been considered. New research shows that the convenience of autonomous vehicles would likely come at an environmental cost. A recent paper by researchers from the University of Wisconsin-Madison addresses the use-phase implications of autonomous vehicles using a stated preference survey to reveal the potential users of autonomous vehicles and the resulting level of competition with traditional modes of transport. The results show an expected increase in environmental impacts across all the categories studied, due to a shift from less carbon intensive transportation options. The authors also confirm that the use of electric autonomous vehicles could change this environmental outcome. Their research is published today in the journal Environmental Research Letters.
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