Rather than usher in an era of low-pollution travel, future fleets of all-electric robotaxis could instead deliver unintended environmental consequences.
Despite the emissions problems they might solve, new research suggests electrified self-driving fleets could, at least in some cases, exacerbate pollution problems.
The counterintuitive findings were published in Environmental Research Letters this month, and come from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Harvard researchers who say low-cost robotaxis could deter riders from pooling rides and entice travelers into taking trips they otherwise would not have.
Both factors contribute to their conclusions that emissions could actually rise in an electric-robotaxi era, even as they acknowledge electric powertrains provide cleaner transportation than vehicles powered by internal combustion engines.
"It's quite significant in terms of overall energy consumption and emissions," Ashley Nunes, the study's lead author, told Automotive News. "That combination is a huge increase, though there are ways to mitigate that."