Publication Detail

Keeping Vehicle Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Check in a Driverless Vehicle World


Research Report

3 Revolutions Future Mobility Program

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Suggested Citation:
Circella, Giovanni, Chris Ganson, Caroline J. Rodier (2017) Keeping Vehicle Use and Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Check in a Driverless Vehicle World. Institute of Transportation Studies, University of California, Davis, Research Report UCD-ITS-RR-17-43

Driverless vehicles are likely to profoundly affect transportation patterns and ultimately reshape cities. Their deployment creates substantial risk to vehicle miles traveled (VMT) and greenhouse gas (GHG) containment, but also substantial opportunity. Driverless technology could be deployed along very divergent pathways, and at this early stage, policy has the opportunity to affect which path is taken. Because California is at the epicenter of driverless technology development, such policy could influence deployment pathways nationally or even globally. Given transportation’s large share of GHG emissions, California’s influence could conceivably tip national, or even global, GHG emissions trajectories sufficiently to enable or prevent attainment of science-based climate goals.

Understanding what a driverless vehicle world might look like is challenging. Driverless vehicles are not yet publicly available, so we do not yet have empirical data on how they will affect travel behavior. Nevertheless, researchers have extrapolated from existing travel behavior research to make estimates of likely effects. Among other research being developed in this area, the research activities funded through the National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) 20-102 are specifically investigating the “Impacts of Connected Vehicles and Automated Vehicles on State and Local Transportation Agencies”.