White Paper

Near-Term Impacts of Automated Vehicle Technologies

June 30, 2021

Automated vehicle (AV) technology may substantially impact light-duty vehicle fuel economy in the coming decade. Although fuel economy and emissions regulations have the potential to encourage highly efficient AV technology, they are not guaranteed to do so; thus, AV technology may actually compromise fuel economy if regulations are not structured effectively. This paper investigates these issues and recommends how current regulations may be amended to better encourage the development of AV technology that improves fuel efficiency.

We find that—depending on how it is implemented and designed—near-term AV technology could increase fuel economy by up to 46% or decrease it by up to 14%. This variation reflects the range of different AV capabilities and implementations that have already been introduced or may be developed and brought to market in the near future. Some of this range reflects design choices under the influence of regulatory incentives, such as off-cycle fuel economy credits. The current off-cycle credit program, however, does not appropriately incentivize improvements in AV fuel economy. We therefore suggest changes in the existing fuel economy and emissions regulation off-cycle credit program. Our proposed changes would foster a streamlined and standardized testing environment for AV fuel economy and effectively encourage increases in AV fuel economy while decreasing emissions.

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Suggested Citation
Mersky, Avi. 2021. “Near-Term Impacts of Automated Vehicle Technologies.” Washington DC: American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy.


This Article Was About

Fuel Economy Transportation System Efficiency Efficient Vehicle Technologies


Avi Mersky
Senior Researcher, Transportation program
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