Ford Alliance: Evaluating the Sustainability and Environmental Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles

Start Date: 
Jan 1, 2017
End Date: 
Dec 31, 2018
Summary: 

Background:

Prognosticators point to an array of benefits from autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, including improved safety, additional convenience, greater accessibility, efficient navigation, reduced emissions, and reduced need for transportation infrastructure (e.g. parking), among other benefits.  It is important that appropriate metrics be used to evaluate the performance of the system and avoid unintended consequences that would reflect poorly on AVs and/or their manufacturers.  It is critical we have an understanding of the broader impacts of this disruptive technology. As Mark Fields said at the Consumer Electronics Show, “Our priority is in making the first Ford autonomous vehicle accessible to the masses and truly enhancing our customers’ lives.”  This project focuses on quantifying the sustainability and environmental impact of AVs (focusing primarily on energy and global warming impacts) from a life cycle assessment perspective.

Technical Case:

We have conducted some initial work to explore the environmental sustainability of AV systems, but a great deal of uncertainty and variability remains. Figure 1 demonstrates the wide ranges of energy consumption change associated with different AV attributes/enablers. Future scenarios for AVs often incorrectly attribute the impact of other vehicle technologies and strategies, such as electrification, right-sizing, and vehicle/infrastructure communication to AVs.  In many cases there may be synergies between automated driving and these technologies, but they are not contingent on AV technology. This study will explore the additional/enhanced benefits that can be achieved from AV technology compared to what could be achieved with non-AV connected vehicle.  System dynamics, agent based, and/or other models will be used to estimate environmental outcomes and understand the interaction of the various parameters over short-, medium-, and long-term time scales.  The model will be used to explore a variety of potential scenarios of deployment and thus inform autonomous vehicle and mobility research at Ford.  The outcome will be a user friendly future-forecasting vehicle fleet model that will be useful for stakeholders (R&A, PD, SESE) at Ford to explore, understand, and communicate regarding future AV sustainability implications.Background: Prognosticators point to an array of benefits from autonomous vehicle (AV) technology, including improved safety, additional convenience, greater accessibility, efficient navigation, reduced emissions, and reduced need for transportation infrastructure (e.g. parking), among other benefits.  It is important that appropriate metrics be used to evaluate the performance of the system and avoid unintended consequences that would reflect poorly on AVs and/or their manufacturers.  It is critical we have an understanding of the broader impacts of this disruptive technology. As Mark Fields said at the Consumer Electronics Show, “Our priority is in making the first Ford autonomous vehicle accessible to the masses and truly enhancing our customers’ lives.”  This project focuses on quantifying the sustainability and environmental impact of AVs (focusing primarily on energy and global warming impacts) from a life cycle assessment perspective.

Sponsor: 
Ford Motor Company
Keyword: 
Life Cycle Assessment