The road ahead for self driving cars

Many people were caught unaware when tech companies such as Google and Apple stated that they were developing driverless cars. With fossil fuels running out and many auto accidents resulting from human error, it’s only natural that human innovation will change that.

The prospects of having a steering turn itself automatically as the person sitting at the front seat catches a nap is an exciting one indeed. However, the developments do come with its own issues.


The Problem of Emissions
 
One of the most pressing issues in the transportation sector has been the rising emissions contributing to global warming. As a matter of fact, in the list of largest sources of greenhouse gases in the United States, it comes only second to industrial emissions. U.S. sees more than 2 billion barrels of fuel used in cars every single day. The question is, will autonomous cars change this?

Seemingly, yes.

Tesla RoadsterFirstly, looking at the growing popularity of electric vehicles manufactured by Tesla and Nissan it can be safely predicted that by the time autonomous technology is implemented for public use, most cars would have shifted to cleaner sources of energy.

Even if they don’t, it can be predicted that intelligent cars might actually manage to save more fuel than man. Making cars more intelligent would mean better efficiency due to elimination of the human error factor in driving. Besides, cars would interact with each other and exchange information. This wireless communication will enable cars to relay information regarding traffic across the network thus facilitating commute through the most efficient path.

This will invariably bring down fuel consumption and ensure a smoother ride among other things.

The Other Benefits

Autonomous cars will make carpooling easier and also make larger vehicles practical on the road. Thus, number of people inside each car is set to rise thus helping to create an efficient transportation network. Lesser number of cars will be required on the road as each car will transport more people. As the number of cars plying on the road decreases, the emissions will gradually decrease.

The Other Problems

One other issue that needs to be addressed for autonomous cars is the issue of safety. Certain tests have shown that in case the computer malfunctions, there might be an accident. Besides, the cars being completely run by a computer are also susceptible to cyber attacks. Having said all this, autonomous cars can potentially make our roads accident proof.

So, where do we stand?

The benefits of saving millions of lives which are otherwise lost every year due to car accidents outweigh any other issue that might exist. Autonomous cars will allow cars to ply faster and much more safely as compared to what we see now. Google’s autonomous car project released their accident reports after much prodding by non profit public interest group Consumer Watchdog.

Their car, which runs across California, saw 14 minor accidents over a period of 6 years having clogged over 1.8 million miles. If these figures are not reassuring enough, Google also said that all these accidents were caused by factors other than the autonomous car technology developed by them. Safety on the roads is set to increase manifold with the introduction of autonomous vehicles as compared to today’s situation.

Car emissions: what is being done?

Owning a vehicle is a huge responsibly and great joy for millions of people.

Model T FordWhen Ford created the Model T, he had no idea how far cars would come. As the world industrialized and progressed, cars got bigger, better, stronger, but they also began producing more emissions. Emissions, among other things, are contributing to pollution and also have a hand in global warming as well as the hole in the ozone layer. Because of the increased use of vehicles, issues caused by these emissions have gotten worse. More people and companies are beginning to take notice of the issues they are causing, and many more of them are starting to take steps to prevent and repair the damages that have been done.

Electric Cars

One major breakthrough that is being developed to reduce car emissions and the pollution/damage they cause are electric cars. Electric cars are being developed to run on battery power, as well as other more environmental friendly ways. Many companies, such as VW have introduced their prototypes for a more efficient electric car. Few electric cars exist, but they all need work done to make them worthwhile and sustainable. Many early prototypes only reached up to 45 mph, and many also had issues with staying charged for long periods of time, as well as lack of space like diesel and gasoline cars have. Electric cars, once refined and developed to suit the modern world’s growing needs, will be a huge step in combating emissions and the issues that come along with them.

Reduction And Alternatives

While many manufacturers are working on environmentally friendly vehicle options, there are a few already available, and have been available for decades. By using your car only for long distances, or only a few days a week, you can help cut down on the amount of pollution that goes into the environment. By walking, biking, or even taking public transportation, you can reduce your environmental foot print by an alarming amount. This is especially true for people who live in bustling cities, where cars are not needed, but are rather that of a luxury. The less you use your vehicle, the better off the environment is. Even by eliminating 2 days of use a week, you can make a substantial difference. Many towns and cities across the country have a day where public transportation is completely free, to promote the use of public transport over the use of personal vehicles. Always walk or bike when possible, and try taking public transportation more often. You’ll not only save money, but you’ll be helping the environment as well.

The Importance Of Change

Many people feel that there are no issues with the environment because they can’t see or feel it on their own. This is an unfortunate and dangerous assumption that is leading to the destruction of our only environment. It’s very important to find alternatives and to develop environmentally friendly vehicles, and for more than one reason. The oil under the ground took 200 million years to form into the state it’s in, the state in which we use it daily to fuel our cars, homes and more. The use of vehicles consumes a very large portion of this oil. In the past 200 years, humanity has used up more than half of this natural supply, and if oil consumption continues at the current rate, we will run out within the next 40 years. Even more frightening is the fact that tail pipe emissions from cars and trucks account for a third of the pollution in The United States. These facts are alarming, and are just a few reasons why the development of alternative fuel resources, environmentally friendly cars, and cutting back on using such vehicles is very important.

Vehicles are a necessity for many people, especially those who live in rural areas with poor public transportation. However, one should always cut back on using emission producing vehicles as much as they can. It’s also important to support bills and legislation that will help the environment, as well as supporting cars that run on alternative fuels. We only have one earth to live on, with one environment, and if the current rate of pollution continues as it is, we may not have this earth for much longer.

Cleaning up the environment

Because there are so many vehicles on the road today, car emissions have taken a front seat in many business and political discussions.

Since these are harmful emissions are released in the atmosphere, many of our largest cities are concerned about the adverse affects that it has on the populations overall health. Because these gases may make it hard for people to breathe, this is an issue that cannot be ignored by the average person or by the vehicle manufacturers. In fact, there are many agencies and emmision studies that indicate that our environments need to be cleaned up by virtually every means possible.

Electric Car Replacing Autos Run By Petrol and Diesel

Fortunately, there are numerous solutions that everyone is paying special attention, which includes but not limited to, the average citizen teaming up with others to drive to work and back. Also, there are some long term solutions that manufacturers are working on today, and they normally involve producing different types of vehicles that do not require various types of petrol based fuel to function properly. One in specific, is the electric car.

Even though the invention of the electric car can be traced backed to its initial inception more than 100 years ago, the electric car did not gain in notable prominence until recently, in 1960s and 1970s. It was during these times that car makers begin to consider the electric car as a serious option when oil shortages began to drive the demand. Today, the electric car industry is receiving another leap forward to becoming a staple in the U.S. and other countries due to the harmful emissions that’s created carbon pollution on a large scale.

Self Driving Vehicles And Car and Emission Related Concerns

While there are many different initiatives driving the need to reduce harmful car emissions into the environment, some are more notable than others. In addition to the strong push to get more electric vehicles on the road, there is another innovative solution on the horizon. The newest that appears to be hitting the airways heavy is the introduction of self driving cars.

Even though it has taken over a century to incorporate the electric car into the mainstream, this is not the case for the self-driving car. In fact, the outlook for the self-driving car is more than promising since it is scheduled to become part of the norm as early as 2020. Google has already released a prototype and they are expecting the average driver to be a part of this new technology in the very near future. By 2050, the projections made include reducing car emission polution by as much as 80% in participating areas.

Reducing emission pollution is currently a big problem that is on the agenda of many individuals, small companies, large corporations, vehicle manufacturers and government agencies alike. All of which have a joint part in correcting these problems because of the impact that has on the overall health of large populations and the environment. Fortunately, there are some great solutions in the making they are designed to address and eliminate these concerns. Two of the more notable includes the introduction of the latest electric cars and self-driving vehicles.

Environmental effect of car emissions

Smog from vehicle emissionsThe greatest challenge confronting many people in the world today is how to tackle car emissions.

It has negative consequences to the environment and detrimental to the human health. When car runs, different types of gases are emitted from it. Perhaps the most dangerous gas coming out of it and emitted directly to the environment is carbon dioxide and the greenhouse gas. Apart from these, there are several other particles emitted from there, and many of these are not good because they were carcinogens. All these affect negatively on the environment, and they can affect human health.

When the alarm was raised in the 1970s about the consequences of emissions to the environment, the US government acted fast by putting in place the 1970 Clean Air Act. There is improvement in the quality of gases released to the environment today compared to what it was in the 1970s. The air quality is indeed better than what it used to be. Lead emissions to the environment have increased tremendously.

The major concern of car emissions was its effect on the environment. Research has shown that it can affect the environment in different ways. Vehicles emit greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide. This is responsible for the global warming and depletion of the ozone layer. Apart from that, such emissions could distort the food chains when it finds its way into the soil as well as water surface. This is not good for the human and animal health, as it can affect certain organs such as respiratory, reproductive, as well as the immune system.

When it affects the ozone layer, it would be catastrophic, because the ozone layer is responsible for protecting lives on earth. It means that lives on earth would be greatly endangered.

Scientists have responded to the challenges of emissions by producing emission fewer cars. The best of such cars is the electric cars.

Electric cars were started more than one hundred years ago. Interests to this type of car were renewed because of the environmental benefits. Apart from reducing the quantity of gases emitted to the environment, it was discovered that electric cars are better, because they are quieter than those cars with internal combustion engines. Furthermore, such cars do not release tailpipe pollutants to the environment. It emits little or no quantities of greenhouse gases.

However, there are advantages of using this type of car, the major challenge of mass production includes the high cost and uneven availability of recharging infrastructure. However, there is greater improvement, as there are different models of electric cars on the road today. As at September, there are at least 620,000 light duties electric passenger cars in different parts of the country. Globally, it is estimated that about 1 million plug in electric cars are sold. This is a good development. It is envisaged that the figure would continue to go up.

The future is indeed bright for electric cars. Apart from those models on the market, more are expected to hit the market in the next couple of years. Mercedes alone has announced different models of such cars in a few years to come.

In the same way, over a few years automated cars have entered the market. The problem with driverless cars is now legal than technical. In a few years, there would be more of such cars on the road. Tesla is leading the pack as far as driverless cars are concerned. It is certain that the complete elimination of car emissions is a matter of time.

Environmental benefits of electric cars

Plugin Electric Vehicles (PEVs) have significant environmental benefits compared to conventional gasoline and diesel powered cars. The PEVs have become a major boost in trying to avert climate changes caused by gasoline and diesel vehicles while going beyond that by saving the fuel economy.

These hybrid PEVs offer a perfect alternative to the problem of carbon emissions and air pollution. Some of the environmental benefits of PEVs include:

  1. Reducing Greenhouse Gases Emission

Most greenhouse gas emissions come from car tailpipe emissions which account for about a third of the total greenhouse gases. Plugin cars significantly reduce the amount of tailpipe emissions per mile than any other type of cars. Even those that are partially powered by gasoline have very low emissions and are more environmental friendly than gasoline cars. The amount of emissions reduced by Plug-in vehicles is also dependent on the source of electricity used to power it. The life-cycle emission is low when the source of electricity is a low-polluting energy source. For example, if the source of electricity for PEVs is a coal-fired plant-and coal is known to produce greenhouse gases-then the net emission will still be lower compared to conventional cars. If the source of recharge electricity is a renewable source, then there will be zero greenhouse gas emission.

  1. Better Fuel Economy

Hybrid Electric Vehicles have a much better fuel economy with low fuel costs than conventional cars. This is also majorly because of the low cost of electricity for recharging the electric vehicles which is measured in kilowatts per hour for every 100 miles. It is estimated that light duty electric cars only consume 25-40 kilowatts-hour to drive for a 100 miles. As for medium and heavy duty PEVs, the amount of energy consumed is relative to the load it carries and the duty cycle. They however have a very strong advantage compared to other vehicles.

  1. Provides Energy Security

Every now and then we have energy crisis in various parts of the world with fuel prices spiking and its supply diminishing. To help curb energy problems in the future, electric cars will provide an escape route and a more sustainable way of transport. Almost three-quarters of all imported fuel is consumed by vehicles and other modes of transport. Using plug-in and hybrid cars can reduce the over reliance on imported fuels and therefore promote energy security.

  1. Clean and Clear Air

Since hybrid cars have no emissions apart from those which are partially powered by gasoline with also very low emissions, they play a significant role in reducing air pollution. They practically have no smoke coming out of their tailpipes and this helps in promoting cleaner air which is also clear and safe.

  1. Promotes Renewable Energy

Plug-in cars would reduce carbon emissions by up to a third, of which is produced by the transport sector. This would mean that over 80 million gasoline powered vehicles would be replaced by electric cars which would in turn be charged using the national grid instead of coal-fired plants. Electric cars would also promote the use of electricity from renewable sources such as solar and hydro-electric power.

However, with all the mouth-watering benefits of plug-in cars, there is a downside look to it. These are some of the disadvantages and limitations of electric cars

  1. They are very expensive- this makes is difficult to own one costing at $30,000 to $40,000. Many people would therefore go for a mid-sized gasoline powered car.
  2. They have a limited range- most PEVs have a range of 80-100 miles and require quite some time to fully recharge. This creates unnecessary range anxiety and worry if you are traveling for a long distance
  3. Limited car choice- the auto brands for electric cars is quite limited and offers you a choice between 20 or so models to choose from. This is exact opposite of conventional cars with many models, styles and brands to select from.

Hybrid electric cars have more positive scores to look at and have become the new alternative to the energy crisis. By replacing the conventional cars, we shall be looking at a new and more sustainable future free from pollution.

Clean vehicles – the way forward

low emission vehicleExactly who invented the first car is a subject of severe debate, but one thing is for sure is that there was huge excitement that went with the car when it became available to the mass market.

This level of excitement has rarely been equaled in recent history. When the car became accessible and affordable to the man (or woman) on the street, lives were changed forever. Families were suddenly able to travel independently, to explore areas that were previously out of their reach; taking trips to the seaside, the countryside and generally extending their minds and their experiences. But not everything associated with the car was positive.

A society that was accustomed to walking or biking short distances suddenly sat behind the wheel to travel those short distances. Small, specialist shops that populated and animated our high streets were slowly replaced by big, impersonal out of town supermarkets and shopping centres that we visited in droves by car. The high street started to close down and this trend has continued, with insult being added to injury by online shopping (which is a completely separate subject).

The car also became a status symbol, not just a way of getting from A to B. People were judged on the basis of the four wheels they owned and drove. Obesity rose because kids no longer walked or biked to school, but much more than all that, we were all involuntarily forced into inhaling the emissions of all these vehicles on the road.

The emissions that come from cars and lorries on our roads affect all of us and can lead to respiratory issues, cardiovascular symptoms and cancers. There is significant evidence to suggest that people who live near major roads are more likely to suffer from these illnesses than people who live further away from significant traffic. The main issues are associated with Nitrogen Oxides, Carbon Monoxide, Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs), Fine Particular Matter and Ground-level Ozone, all of which have a detrimental effect on health.

Nitrogen Oxides are known to attack the lungs and irritate the respiratory system generally. Carbon Monoxide on the other hand (in quantity) hampers the blood’s ability to carry oxygen around the body. VOCs, which are present in a whole host of modern-day products vary in toxicity, but contain certain substances that are cancer causing when they are in the atmosphere in any great amount. When it comes to Fine Particulate Matter, its very nature means that it can be inhaled deep into the lungs and will aggravate any already present respiratory or cardiovascular problems as well as having the potential to be carcinogenic.

It’s easy to see from this list that although we typically can’t see any of these things with the naked eye, they have the potential to affect us, to affect our children and if the situation doesn’t change, their children and their children’s children too. It is for all of these reasons, not to mention the cost of fuel, that clean vehicles simply have to be the way forward and something we can’t ignore.

What is vehicle emissions tax?

vehicle emissionsIt has been recognised for some time now that the emissions from cars and lorries is an issue for the environment.

Several studies have taken place to determine the different emissions that come from motor vehicles, especially those with internal combustion engines. These studies have taken place because in the 1950s and 1960s the penny dropped that air pollution caused by traffic on the road was a risk to health and could not be left to get worse and worse as people started to invest in bigger cars and drive more often than before.

Originally investigated in the United States, early examinations gave rise to controls being put in place to monitor vehicle emissions. But, like many things in the US, the strictness of the control varied from state to state and were pretty much ignored. It was only in 1970 when the US Environmental Protection Agency took up the baton that things began to be taken more seriously. By 1974, the real risk of hydrocarbons, carbon monoxide and nitogen oxides amongst other compounds were known and it was accepted that they were likely to have a seriously detrimental effect on short and long-term health.

Respiratory diseases and cancers are just two of the negative health effects of vehicle emissions, so it’s clear that while the government in any country in the world benefits from a nice revenue from selling fuel, they have a subsequent cost risk on the health side of the equation. It is for this reason, together with the greater awareness that the long term effect on the planet simply can’t be ignored that governments across the world have sat up and started to pay attention to vehicle emissions, particularly in recent years.

In Europe, the EU member states are governed by the rules set out by the overall community, but many countries have decided to enforce stricter rules in order to improve their country’s performance when it comes to reducing emissions. Such countries are being recognised on the global platform as being leaders in the journey to a greener planet.

In North America, there are several different bodies that oversee the control of vehicle emissions and create policy to discourage pollution. In the UK, in line with many other such issues, there are three different agencies that take charge of vehicle emissions. They are the Environment Agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Department of the Environment. These departments operate in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland respectively. That said, the Department of the Environment Food and Rural Affairs takes an overall view for the whole country and liaises closely with Europe on the subject.

So how do governments across the world deter people from allowing vehicles to emit unacceptable levels of harmful substances? Like most other things, they apply a tax to vehicles according to their engine size and their CO2 emissions. This tax is called vehicle emissions tax. Vehicle emissions tax often takes into account the year of registration of a car as well as the engine size and CO2 emission on the basis that cars manufactured in more recent years have made attempts to control emissions more effectively than before.