How Self-Driving Cars Will Increase Fuel Efficiency And Decrease Waste

Tao Lin Blog

rsz_oil_flickWhen we think of the self-driving car, and of software developments that make cars more and more autonomous, we tend to focus on the safety aspects, and the resulting convenience. We think about how they will transform the automotive industry and the economics of driving. What isn’t talked about as much is how they will impact fuel economy and make cars much more efficient, saving fuel and lowering greenhouse emissions.

When Cars Waste Fuel: The Human Factor

When we talk about waste, we have to define first what we mean. Although transportation makes up 27% of greenhouse gas emissions, those aren’t all “wasted.” Transportation is a key part of the economy, and of our modern civilization. If you are hungry and eat a hot dog, the food isn’t wasted. It is only wasteful if you make more hot dogs than you need. What the auto industry is trying to do is reduce the need for fuel by increasing efficiency and limiting waste.

Limiting waste means first identifying where waste exists. Historically, that meant upgrading with better oil, a cleaner-running engine, and other general improvements so that top performance didn’t require as much fuel. Most of yesterday’s gas-guzzling muscle cars, as awesome as they are, would be considerably slower than your average, fuel-efficient family sedan today.

But so much fuel waste comes from inefficient driving itself. Starting and stopping wastes fuel. Gunning it at green lights or slamming on the brakes wastes fuel. Driving too fast—above 55 mph—greatly decreases fuel efficiency. Think of how much fuel in your life you have wasted because someone who suddenly remembered they had to turn, blocked traffic by trying to switch lanes and you had to slam on the brakes.

There are broader ways in which we waste fuel, like unneeded trips, lack of carpooling, and even simply getting lost. All of these are part of the same basic and understandable problem: human nature. There isn’t a single one of us who doesn’t gun it when traffic finally clears, or switch lanes suddenly so we don’t miss an exit. This can all change with self-driving cars.

How Self-Driving Cars and Easy Software Updates Can Improve Fuel Efficiency

We’ve all seen (and maybe even been) the person trying to parallel park who takes 30 attempts, gas and brake, pulling out and in, seesawing into place. That in and out itself isn’t much of a waste, but it adds up. It adds up when doing it again and again, compounded by the millions of people who do it. Right now, we already have cars that can parallel park themselves with negligible or non-existent human assistance. Think of all that wasted gas suddenly not being wasted.

Now take that further, as cars become more autonomous. There won’t be sudden lane changes, as the cars on the road will know where they are going, and V2V communication ensures a smooth drive. They won’t be blazing over the speed limit, or coming to a sudden, screeching halt when a space they see closes. All traffic will move more efficiently. There will be less wasted rides, as well. A car can pick someone up and drop them off, and then pick up the next person, instead of two people driving two cars. Getting lost will also be a thing of the past.

Even now, with OTA software updates, cars can improve functions that will decrease fuel waste, like maps, automatic braking, accident prevention devices, or infotainment apps that help you find a parking space. We don’t even have to wait for 2020 or 2025 for these continual improvements which help with fuel efficiency. Smartphone-based OTA software updates from Movimento can deliver these fuel-efficient updates this generation.

The scale has been tipped toward efficiency. Every automaker knows that is the way of the future, for the planet, and for their business. The automotive industry is full of amazing corporate citizens who are working to make their needed products more efficient. Software updates, and the path to the self-driving car, is a huge part of this new revolution.

As the auto industry is changed by technological and economic currents, OEMs and Tier-1 manufacturers will need to partner with technological specialists to thrive in the era of the software defined car. Movimento’s expertise is rooted in our background as an automotive company. This has allowed us to create the technological platform that underpins the future of the software driven and self-driven car. Connect with us today to learn more about how we can work together.

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