Autonomous Driving and Fuel Efficiency

TuSimple – a San Diego-based company that designs autonomous driving technology for the trucking industry – claims that their autonomous driving technology reduces fuel consumption by 10%. In terms of fuel saved, TuSimple asserts that a 10% reduction across the board would be equivalent to 4 billion gallons of fuel. TuSimple arrived at these figures by conducting a study with the Jacobs School of Engineering at the University of California San Diego. The study examined how autonomy impacts fuel consumption.

The test was conducted by equipping autonomous trucks with what is known as black box technology. This technology tracks and records data pertaining to the vehicle’s driving performance, including statistics such as speed, GPS location, and distance to name a few. In order to gauge fuel consumption from the black box data, TuSimple’s researchers relied on the Virginia Tech Comprehensive Power-based Fuel Consumption model which combines the function of speed, location, acceleration and braking to derive estimates. Researchers also equipped manually driven trucks with black box technology so that they could compare fuel efficiency between manual and autonomous trucks.

Once the manual and autonomous trucks had black box technology installed, researchers looked at fuel consumption at different ranges of speeds. According to researchers, the goal was to determine whether fuel efficiency changed at all based on speed. Based on the study, TuSimple concludes that the greatest fuel savings between manual and autonomous trucks happen while driving at slower speeds that involve a higher frequency of acceleration and braking. Conversely, TuSimple reports that highway speeds showed very little difference in fuel efficiency between autonomous and manual trucks. In conclusion, TuSimple believes that autonomous trucking can significantly reduce fuel consumption and asserts that if all medium- and heavy-duty trucks adopted their self-driving technology, that CO2 emissions would be cut by 42 million metric tons per year.

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