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'Induced' driving miles could overcome potential energy-saving benefits of self-driving

Source: University of Michigan

The benefits of self-driving cars will likely induce vehicle owners to drive more, and those extra miles could partially or completely offset the potential energy-saving benefits that automation may provide, according to a new study.

  • In the coming years, self-driving cars are expected to yield significant improvements in safety, traffic flow and energy efficiency. In addition, automation will allow vehicle occupants to make productive use of travel time.

  • Previous studies have shown that greater fuel efficiency induces some people to travel extra miles, and those added miles can partially offset fuel savings. It's a behavioral change known as the rebound effect.

The ability to use in-vehicle time productively in a self-driving car, people can work, sleep, watch a movie, read a book, will likely induce even more travel
  • Taken together, those two sources of added mileage could partially or completely offset the energy savings provided by autonomous vehicles, according to a team of researchers at the U-M School for Environment and Sustainability.

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