Aug 7, 2019

Self-driving cars could be more fuel-efficient than human drivers

Photo: Volvo Cars

The expected benefits of self-driving cars are widely touted: They will be safer than human drivers and improve access to transportation for people with disabilities, the elderly and the poor.

One other potential benefit: They will be better for the environment (and not just because most AVs will be electric).

Driving the news: A new study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on behalf of Volvo showed a 5% to 7% drop in fuel consumption for cars driving with adaptive cruise control compared with human drivers.

  • NREL studied Volvos driven by employees and their families near the company's headquarters in Gothenburg, Sweden.
  • They compared the fuel economy of cars using adaptive cruise control to those without the system, which automatically adjusts to the speed of the car ahead.
  • It's the first study that uses real-world driving data to show how much more efficient cars with driver-assistance features can be, according to Green Car Reports.

Quick take: With less stop-and-go driving, cars drive at a steadier pace and thus burn less fuel.

What to watch: Future developments such as platooning and vehicle-to-vehicle communications could smooth traffic flow even further, making cars potentially even more efficient.

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Don't expect Carmageddon to kill driving anytime soon

Photo: Kian Eriksen/Total 911 Magazine/Future via Getty Images

Carmageddon is upon us: Before we know it, robo-cars will be ubiquitous and crowd out human-driven cars.

What they're saying: After all, Elon Musk has said that buying anything other than a Tesla that can drive itself will be as financially insane as owning a horse. But horses survived, and driving will too.

Go deeperArrowAug 16, 2019

Top U.S. auto safety official Heidi King to step down

Heidi King, the acting administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, is set to step down on August 31, Automotive News reports.

Why it matters: King was nominated a year ago to become permanent administrator, but never confirmed by Congress. Sources tell Axios that her management style alienated some at the agency, which has been coping with management churn and been accused by consumer advocates of being too cozy with the auto industry.

Go deeperArrowAug 12, 2019

GM vs. Ford on electrified AVs

Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

General Motors is laying down huge, simultaneous bets on electric cars and self-driving technology, a strategic gamble based on its belief that future automated vehicles will run only on electricity.

Why it matters: It's a risky bet that few can stomach, especially if EVs and AVs are slow to be accepted by consumers. Other carmakers, like Ford, see near-term limitations to battery-electric AVs and favor a more measured approach.

Go deeperArrowAug 14, 2019