How Self-Driving Cars Could Reduce Carbon Emissions

The age of autonomy is upon us. While we’re still several years away from robots fully taking the wheel, it’s safe to say that driverless vehicles are imminent. Our lives will soon be in the hands of technology, and with 94 percent of today’s accidents caused by human error, that’s probably for the best.

Self-driving cars promise more than convenience and fewer crashes — and they might just be the key to a greener future. Currently, transportation is responsible for roughly 27 percent of the total carbon emissions in the US. The Intelligent Transportation Society of America claims that intelligent transportation systems (ITS) could reduce oil consumption and greenhouse gases by two to four percent each year (over 10 years) as technology continues to advance. A world of autonomous rides could greatly benefit our environment.

Say Goodbye to Idling Engines

We’ve all been gridlocked in a traffic jam during rush hour. But soon, autonomous vehicles will be able to outsmart traffic jams by exchanging information with other vehicles using a feature known as vehicle-to-vehicle communication (V2V).

Imagine never having to stop at a red light or tap your brakes — fuel savings and emission reductions will be instant. With V2V, this could be a reality.

The Future Is Electric

While adoption of battery-powered vehicles has been slow, it’s also where some automakers are placing their bets. In early 2018, Jaguar Land Rover announced a partnership with self-driving car company Waymo to roll out 20,000 completely electric driverless Jaguar I-PACE models to Waymo’s fleet in the coming years.

Jaguar Land Rover’s Chief Executive, Ralf Speth, said, “The future is electric in modern mobility.” And with electric vehicles emitting zero pollutants, we certainly hope so.

Multiple Forms of Transportation Will Be Critical

Without the stress of driving, autonomous vehicles could entice people to live farther away and endure lengthier commutes. But if self-driving cars still run on fossil fuels, we’re in trouble. One solution: encourage more ride sharing. Vanpooling and micro-transit are popular alternatives to the single-
passenger vehicle. While they’re perhaps not as efficient as a bus, they’re still better than a lone commuter in a car.

But the ultimate clean dream machine? Self-driving electric mass transit. In May 2018, Gainesville, Florida introduced an autonomous shuttle from EasyMile transporting up to 12 people at a speed of 25mph. These shuttles were designed to solve commuting challenges while running on zero emissions.
Most certainly a step in the eco-friendly direction.

More Technology, More Output … More Efficient?

It’s important to note that, while self-driving cars may be less harmful to the environment, a study by the University of Michigan found they’re actually less efficient than standard vehicles. Wait, what?

Before you boycott, let’s talk about what it takes to build a driverless vehicle. A variety of sensors, cameras, and other cutting-edge technology adds up to more drag. And that extra weight produces 20 percent more emissions than our less-smart, human-driven rides. But considering the bigger picture, the
study found autonomous vehicles could lead to an overall 9 percent reduction of greenhouse gases and net energy emissions.

How is this possible? Think about wind turbines, for example. To get these machines up and running, you need to manufacture parts, ship them and assemble them, which burns fossil fuels. However, once up and running, wind turbines are considered one of the most sustainable ways to produce electricity.

What’s Next?

As automakers and tech giants continue the race toward autonomy, it’s crucial that lawmakers and city officials consider the impact transportation has on the environment, and act accordingly. In an ideal world, all self-driving cars would be electric with zero emissions. But some experts say that could take
up to 40 years. In the meantime, you’ll likely see a mix of self-driving and human-driven cars that run on traditional fuel, or hybrids and or electric technology.

There is also much speculation about how people will use their automated cars. The Department of Energy reported that self-driving vehicles could cut down fuel consumption by 90 percent or increase it by over 200 percent. In other words, only time will tell what happens next.

Haden Kirkpatrick is the head of marketing strategy and innovation at Esurance. Haden is responsible for all initiatives related to marketing strategy, product and service innovation. He is a futurist and an innovator who is constantly thinking about how IoT, self-driving cars and machine learning will impact the auto insurance industry. To learn more about Esurance’s current auto insurance policies, visit


Olivia M
Past Member 2 months ago

Thank you for sharing

Paulo R
Paulo R5 months ago


Elizabeth M
Past Member 6 months ago

very cool many thanks.

danii p
danii p6 months ago

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danii p
danii p6 months ago

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danii p
danii p6 months ago

thank you

Helen E
Helen Ers6 months ago

Abandoned Canteen

Roberto MARINI
Roberto MARINI6 months ago

this is a very important isssue, thanks

Beverly S
Beverly S6 months ago

I'll drive, thanks.

Shirley S
Shirley S6 months ago

We will see............