The Environmental Impact of Autonomous Vehicles Depends on Adoption Patterns
The forces that will influence the environmental impacts of large-scale AV adoption are identified to help determine necessary future research directions. It is too early to determine which of these forces will dominate the system and dictate whether AV adoption will result in net reductions or increases in greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. The environmental research community must develop a better understanding of the disruptive forces of AVs to help develop a strategy to reduce transportation emissions. Particular emphasis is needed regarding how AVs will be adopted and used, as these patterns may ultimately dictate the environmental impacts of AVs. Without better integration of engineering, social science, and planning disciplines to model future adoption scenarios, important opportunities to steer markets toward sustainable outcomes will be lost.
With mobility more available, there is less incentive to avoid travel and therefore VMT will increase.
The way we adopt new vehicle technologies will decide whether GHG emissions and VMT goes up or down.
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