Driverless cars won’t be good for the environment if they lead to more auto use

But while attention has understandably focused on safety, the potential environmental impacts of automated vehicles have largely taken a back seat.

We study automated vehicle technologies and how consumers are likely to use them. In two recent studies, our research teams found two creative ways to assess the real-life impacts that automated vehicles could have on the environment.

By analyzing drivers’ use of partially automated vehicles and simulating the expected impact of future driverless vehicles, we found that both automated vehicle types will encourage a lot more driving. This will increase transportation-related pollution and traffic congestion, unless regulators take steps to make car travel less appealing.