Simanaitis Says

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DO AUTONOMOUS BEVS MAKE SENSE? PART 1

I MAY sound like a crusty old Luddite protesting progress. However, I believe evidence shows that autonomous BEVs (driverless battery electric vehicles) make no sense, particularly in being feasible within the next few years. This evidence comes from Automotive News, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, and Wired magazine. Together, they provide a link to common (and technical) sense discussed here at SimanaitisSays in two parts, today and tomorrow.

Marketing. Do customers really want any sort of BEVs? How crucial are government incentives? Automotive News addresses marketing aspects in its June 25, 2018, article “Cutting the Cord,” by Eric Kulisch and Michael Wayland.

The industry weekly notes, “Tesla Inc. and General Motors lead the U.S. auto industry in sales of plug-in vehicles…. But in an emerging market for plug-ins, it has meant investing billions of dollars in vehicles that aren’t yet profitable while also being first in line to lose sizable tax credits for their customers from Uncle Sam.”

Federal tax credits phase out when an automaker achieves 200,000-unit sales. By the way, Tesla may lose its tax credits as early as this month.

Hybrid, plug-in electric, and fuel-cell vehicle market share. Image from Automotive News, June 25, 2018.

Hybrids, plug-in electrics, and fuel-cell vehicles aren’t expected to surpass 5 percent of U.S. auto sales until 2022.

Autonomous Technicalities. The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers website offers an article appearing February 15, 2018, “Exposing the Power Vampires in Self-Driving Cars,” by Peter Fairley. In brief: “Autonomous driving systems give cars eco-driving skills. But their computers and sensors could consume enough electricity to negate this green dividend.”

The Waymo Chrysler Pacifica minivan bristles with autonomous-vehicle sensory apparatus. Waymo, by the way, began in 2009 as Google’s self-driving project.

The IEEE website cites a study performed by researchers at the University of Michigan and Ford titled “Life Cycle Assessment of Connected and Automated Vehicles: Sensing and Computing Subsystems and Vehicle Level Effects.” The researchers note that CAV’s (connected and automated vehicles) “could increase vehicle primary energy use and GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions by 3-20 percent due to increases in power consumption, weight, drag, and data transmission. However, when potential operational effects of CAVs are included (e.g., eco-driving, platooning, and intersection connectivity), the net result is up to a 9-percent reduction in energy and GHG emissions.”

I’m not being a Luddite in noting the word “potential.”

Sources of added energy consumption from Ford Fusion’s autonomy system. Image from IEEE Spectrum.

IEEE cites one researcher’s concern of future autonomous subsystems having understated power requirements. It’s noted, “Higher-bandwidth data transmission via today’s 4G network could boost power consumption by onboard computers by one third or more.” Plus, “It is premature…to judge the power consumption associated with 5G [the evolving next generation of data transmission].

If you’re curious about the IEEE logo, check out Charley F. Murphy.

In particular, IEEE believes that the computer power required is an autonomous vehicle’s principal vampire.

Tomorrow, we’ll question whether electric vehicles are capable of contesting with this vampire—and offer a possible solution that doesn’t require a stake in the heart of vehicle autonomy. ds

© Dennis Simanaitis, SimanaitisSays.com, 2018

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