How Autonomous Cars Could Impact Energy Use

A new study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) warns that, without changes in technology, the growth of autonomous vehicles will spur massive energy consumption. As Rima Sabina Aouf reports in Dezeen, “The study found that with a mass global takeup of autonomous vehicles, the powerful onboard computers needed to run them could generate as many greenhouse gas emissions as all the data centres in operation today.”

As Aouf explains, “The high emissions are the result of the huge computing workload placed on each self-driving vehicle.” The vehicles use ‘deep neural networks’ to constantly make inferences that drive decisions. According to the study, “One billion vehicles would make 21,600 trillion inferences. To put that into perspective, the researchers say all of Facebook’s data centres worldwide currently make a few trillion inferences each day.”