RMI: Widespread Low-Cost Autonomous Electric Vehicles Possible in the US

by | Aug 22, 2019

RMI: Widespread Low-Cost Autonomous Electric Vehicles Possible in the US

(Photo Credit: NCDOT, Flickr Creative Commons)

Widespread low-cost autonomous vehicles that are also electric could become a reality for the United States, but only if the country takes key lessons from China and India into consideration, a Rocky Mountain Institute report published today found.

The report, called Driving a Shared, Electric, Autonomous Mobility, evaluates how mobility ecosystems are evolving in three markets: China, India, and the United States. RMI authors Garrett Fitzgerald and Richard Li analyzed how policies, economics, infrastructure, and behavior in the three countries affect mobility.

“The United States has made some progress with electric vehicles due to state-level efforts and a moderate federal rebate program, but the lack of a robust approach leveraging both push and pull policies has caused the US EV market to fall behind China’s,” the authors noted. “However, the United States is leading the pack in the development of autonomous vehicle technology — even though public perception of the technology has been tepid.”

Among the recommendations and takeaways detailed in the report:

  • Adopting a uniform, national EV sales mandate to send a clear message to automakers to scale up production can be effective.
  • Focusing finite EV subsidies on high-utilization vehicles allows for the greatest leverage of public funds to increase electric vehicle miles while creating broad public exposure to EVs.
  • Policies should encourage ride-hailing companies to develop products that reduce congestion and integrate with public transit systems.
  • Encouraging electrification and pooling for autonomous vehicles through tiered taxes will help to avoid the potential negative side effects of low-cost AV mobility services.

“There is huge interest in AV development, due to cost savings in transporting goods and people,” the authors wrote. “However, if AVs are not electric, they will worsen pollution; if they are not shared or regulated, they will worsen congestion.”

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