Elon Musk on autonomous cars

Musk thinks autonomous vehicles will be cheaper and driven for longer.

1 minute read

The content for this Energy Insights posts comes from an Elon Musk TED talk.

impact of autonomous cars

Musk highlights that shared autonomous vehicles will likely become more affordable than a bus, leading to an increase in miles driven in cars.

…the amount of driving that will occur will be greater with shared autonomy and traffic will get far worse… - Elon Musk

Increasing traffic is not as significant a problem for passengers in autonomous cars. Time in an autonomous car can be spent productively. But what will be the impact on carbon emissions?

Let’s have a look at one positive and one neutral scenario. Both of these scenarios require a clean electricity grid power electric vehicles.

If the increased miles driven are spread across the fleet, then the only way for autonomous cars to lead to a global carbon saving is for electric cars to replace fossil fuels. The absolute number of fossil fuel cars must go down.

If all the increased miles driven are taken up by electric cars, then carbon emissions would stay stagnant. For me this seems like the route we must take - making sure that the bulk of the driving load is being done by electric vehicles. Ideally all autonomous cars are electric.

The number of fossil fuel cars will increase. In the 2017 Energy Outlook BP project an increase from 1 billion to 2 billion from now until 2050, driven by the emerging middle class in Asia. But we can smartly operate our passenger fleet to favour electric cars over fossil fuels.

Thanks for reading!