The tech world is due for the next big thing, and one of the best candidates to fill this position is autonomous vehicles or AVs. However, as a fan of electric cars, you might wonder if battery-powered vehicles make good AVs. In this article, we look at what it takes for EVs to make excellent self-driving cars.
Electric vehicles are the future of mobility, the same as self-driving. The former will save the environment by not producing emissions while the latter will save drivers’ lives, time, and effort, freeing them to engage in other activities while enjoying their rides. However, there are challenges to be met before EVs and self-driving can intersect in perfect harmony.
To make EVs self-driving, some compromises are required. One of such tradeoffs is range. EVs still have a limited driving range compared to ICE cars. Yet, the first set of self-driving cars is expected to be used as robotaxis that will have to cover hundreds of miles each day. Moreover, powering the sensors and onboard computers that enable self-driving will zap the battery, reducing the driving range.
However, a Carnegie Mellon study suggests that the tradeoffs necessary make EVs autonomous are not as crippling as once assumed. While it is true that some hardware parts will impact the driving range, some tweaks and better software could make autonomous EV fleets a reality.
The researchers point out other ways that battery efficiency can be improved. For example, the study concluded that constant starts and stops take between 10 and 15 percent of the battery. This implies that programming the EVs to drive themselves smoothly will result in some gains in range. Also, using chips custom-made for AVs will increase energy efficiency, while reducing the size and weight of the Lidar hardware or finding a better way of integrating them into the car will improve the aerodynamics.
Interestingly, car makers do not have a consensus on whether the first batch of self-driving cars should be battery or gas-powered. For example, Ford plans to launch its autonomous tech using hybrid electric vehicles. The company claims that half of an EV’s battery will be consumed by self-driving software, air conditioning, and other secondary systems. Ford also claims charging an EV rapidly-a requirement for a successful fleet-will wear the battery out faster while still slowing down the fleet operation.
In contrast, Tesla, which makes only electric cars, is all in with self-driving tech. It wants to make self-driving happen as soon as possible. Showing its confidence in its self-driving tech, the carmaker recently increased the cost of its Autopilot feature from $10,000 to $12,000.
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