Both via ABG:
EVs and autonomy may not be as harmonious as we think
Self-driving systems draw a lot of power.
. . . It's been widely stated that electric vehicles lend themselves particularly well to autonomy. Especially in a future where private ownership is rarer and an autonomous vehicle spends the bulk of its time picking up and dropping off users (as opposed to sitting parked), an electric powertrain makes sense. It requires less maintenance, and finding a place to (wirelessly) recharge is safer and less complex than refueling at a gas station. . . .
But EVs may not be the answer to automation, at least not yet, according to an article from Bloomberg titled, "Driverless Cars Are Giving Engineers a Fuel Economy Headache," which points out how the two technologies might not be as harmonious as we think.
According to BorgWarner, the amount of energy used to power the autonomous driving systems in today's prototypes is equivalent to that of running 50 to 100 laptops. Processing data from the numerous sensors required for a car to drive itself might just be too great for a car running solely on battery power, especially if the first applications will be in robotaxis.
That's why Delphi Automotive's powertrain CTO Mary Gustanski and Cairn Energy Research Advisors founder Sam Jaffe believe hybrids will make more sense. Autonomous taxis are "going to favor plug-in hybrid EVs," says Jaffe, "and they're going to require that extra gasoline engine, both to extend the range to be able to do a taxi type of duty cycle, but also to help mitigate the proportion of the autonomous systems on the battery pack itself. . . ."
Still, we're in the early days of autonomous driving, and the technology will only improve and become more efficient (as will EV battery technology). When that happens, fully electric autonomous cars will make more sense. For now, though, they're not the ideal fit.
Passenger drones are 'absolutely coming. ... They're flying as we speak'
Fare would compare to a taxi. Should the auto industry worry?
. . . Most people would call these aircraft passenger drones, some call them quad copters, but the people in the business prefer the term Vertical Take-Off and Landing craft (VTOLs). It's all about flying over traffic jams by using autonomous, electrically powered drones.
"It's absolutely coming," says Robin Linenberger, a retired Air Force officer and now a principal at Deloitte who advises aerospace and defense companies. "We're seeing prototypes being built. We're seeing demonstration programs. They're flying as we speak."
Starting in 2013, NASA began working with VTOL contractors at six test sites. NASA is also working with the Federal Aviation Administration, which is licensing the airspace and developing different scenarios and use cases. The early tests have been successful, and aerospace and defense contractors are getting involved, not only with the VTOLs themselves, but with flight management systems.
One of the startups in the field is the Detroit Aircraft Corp., which works out of the Coleman A. Young International Airport in Detroit. It's working on a VTOL that can carry 4-5 passengers and 100 pounds of baggage, traveling 150 miles per hour with 60 miles of range and a 20 percent reserve. The potential impact on the auto industry is obvious.
NASA and the DOT are proactive on developing VTOLs because road traffic congestion is so bad and getting worse. That's why Uber is also heavily involved in developing VTOLs — it wants to reduce a trip from San Francisco to San Jose from nearly two hours down to only 15 minutes.
The key to making this all work is getting the cost down. Jon Rimanelli, founder and CEO of DAC, wants to leverage the automotive industrial base for mass-producing low-cost aircraft using automotive EV motors, controls, batteries and battery management systems. Even more, it turns out that automotive sensor technology for autonomy and vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V) communication could be applied to VTOLs.
"Wait a minute, we've spent all this time and money figuring this out for cars, why don't we use that exact same system to manage air traffic?" Rimanelli asks. "We're only going to be operating at about 1,000 feet, and the range of these radios is about 3,000 feet. . . ."
While much VTOL development work is centered on electric propulsion, the machines could also be powered by a gasoline engine, or a fuel cell. It's all going to come down to which is the most cost effective.
"We've done the math, and the math is working," says Rimanelli. He claims VTOLs could deliver rides for about $2.50 a mile. That's about the same cost as an Uber X ride, and cheaper than a taxi.
The first commercial VTOLs in the United States are expected to appear sometime around 2020. . . .