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Autonomous vehicles (AVs) represent potentially disruptive changes to today’s
transportation system. Though being destructive to transportation systems, AVs bring beneficial
changes to today’s transportation system. The adoption of AVs would undoubtedly have
transformative effects on nearly all aspects of United States (U.S)’s transportation system. This
will lead to the creation, transformation or elimination of entire business models and professions
(Fagnant & Kockelman, 2015). Some of the potential benefits of AVs include improved driver
safety, reduced fuel, and vehicle maintenance costs and enhanced vehicle utilization (Diels &
Bos, 2016). In spite of these benefits, AVs may not work in countries such as U.S because of the
country’s road and political system. This paper will examine the suitability of AVs in U.S,
economic issues associated with the technology by comparing AVs with conventional vehicles
and environmental benefits of AVs. To evaluate environmental benefits of AV technology, the
comparison will be done between AVs and gasoline vehicles.
Suitability of Autonomous vehicles in the United States (U.S)
The AV technology may not work better in U.S due to deteriorating roadways in most
parts of U.S. For instance, in Los Angeles, the roadways are in poor conditions making it
difficult for AVs to operate properly. The roads are also not painted (Kurman, 2016). Poor roads
are the biggest barrier to adoption of AVs in the country. Poor markings and inconsistent signage
on 3,000,000 miles on U. S’s public roads are driving automakers to come up with complex
sensors to drive AV technology forward. According to Kurman (2016), U.S may not see the
benefits to driver safety or environmental improvements of AVs if the country does not address
its infrastructure problem. The display of emotion undermines the effect that poor road networks
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throughout U.S have on the applications of the AV technology (Diels & Bos, 2016). The quality
of U. S’s current road system is just as much as it is limited by technologically based
advancements and human controlled cars (Long, 2016).
Not only does the poor state of roads cause additional wear and tear on cars, but poor
roads also create dynamic road environments. AVs may need to be incorporated with technology
to enable them to scan upcoming road conditions. They also need to be equipped with onboard
computers that help in interpreting the surrounding environment. This helps the car to make best
decisions in any given situation (Kurman, 2016).
Apart from the road problem, AVs may not be suitable in U.S due to the country’s
political system. According to Maurer (2016), most governments in U.S (cities, counties, and
states) have authority to regulate vehicles. Unless all these governments cooperate, even the best
AVs could be of no importance since they could be traveling few miles before they reach banned
zones. Every city, county, and state in U.S have its specific rules that govern driving within these
regions. For the AVs to work well in U.S, then the federal government has to step in and come
up with uniform rules which are unlikely to happen any soon.
According to Stanton & Landry (2017), the state of dysfunctional in the capital has
reached the point which even the commonsense, bipartisan laws are unreachable. Washington
has failed to be functional, and this has posed a big impact on the tech sector more than the
Americans realize. With the current U. S’s political systems and the road networks, it is in no
doubt that the country is not the right place for AVs and until these two areas are addressed, it
could be difficult for the technology to be adopted.
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Economic Issues Associated AVs
One of the biggest barriers to adoption of the AV technology is the cost of AV platforms.
Comparing AVs with conventional vehicles, AVs have sensors, communication, and guidance
technology and an advanced software as additional features to conventional cars. The average
cost of an AV is $30,000, and this price goes to as far as $85,000 for those AVs that are
incorporated with LIDAR (light detection and ranging) systems. The cost of conventional cars
ranges between $16,000 and $27,000 suggesting that the cost of the most expensive conventional
car is still lower than the cost of the cheapest AV (Fagnant & Kockelman, 2015). To be
affordable, there is a need for AVs to use non-LIDAR sensors or the prices of LIDAR systems to
fall drastically. Some manufacturers of automobile parts have already started to produce LIDAR
devices for as low as $1000. In 2013, the LIDAR devices were produced at an average cost of
$100,000, and this suggests that in the future, prices of these devices may be expected to fall.
This could make AVs more affordable to the majority of the Americans.
According to Power and Associates (2012), if the price of an AV comes close to that of a
conventional car, there could be a ready and willing market for the AVs. In a research conducted
by Power and Associates (2012), findings indicated that 37% of respondents would “definitely”
or “probably” buy an AVs as their next cars. However, the share decreased to 20% after
respondents were asked to assume an extra $3,000 purchase price. This could be the final price
increase for AV capabilities although those people buying AV early enough may purchase these
vehicles at higher prices. For instance, the price of electric vehicles has been falling at an average
rate of 6%-8% per year. This suggests that the late adopters will benefit from reduced prices than
those who purchase the vehicles just after they have been introduced into the market. Therefore,
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as the AV is a new technology, AVs could be expected to go for reduced prices in the coming
Environmental Benefits of AVs
According to Kurman (2016), the transportation sectors comes second when it comes to
the highest emitters of greenhouse gas in U.S. The transportation sector accounts for 27% of
harmful gasses emitted into the atmosphere. Cars in the U.S roadways guzzle approximately
2,000,000 barrels of oil annually.
There are many ways automobiles affect the environment. Their effects begin when the
vehicles are manufactured (this includes the production of all parts and materials that are used to
manufacture the car) and end after the cars are disposed off as wastes when they complete their
usable life. Over the usable life of a car, however, most of the environmental damage occurs
during driving due to fuel consumption. Zakharenko (2016) mentions that nearly 90% of
lifecycle greenhouse gas production of a conventional car is because of fuel consumption.
According to Fagnant & Kockelman (2015), for a market share of 10%, AVs may lead to the fuel
saving of 102 M gallons. Zakharenko (2016) mentions of environmental benefits from fuel
economy improvements of at least 50% of conventional gasoline vehicles to reduce carbon
dioxide (CO 2 ) emissions by over 90% by replacing gasoline cars with AVs. Due to enhanced fuel
saving, this could lead to reduced environmental pollution.
If combustion is perfect and results in less creation of noxious by-products, then
exhausted products will only be comprised of water vapor and CO 2 . This gas is not directly
harmful to health when its concentrations are low. As a matter of fact, CO 2 is the gas human
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beings exhale after they burn calories in the consumed food. However, CO 2 from conventional
gasoline cars is harmful to the environment due to its effect of causing global warming.
Therefore, the problem with conventional gasoline cars is that they pollute the environment.
AVs, bring environmental benefits by addressing pollution problems presented by
gasoline cars. In a study conducted by Fagnant & Kockelman (2015) to quantify environmental
benefits of using AVs, the findings indicated that using AVs that were powered by solar and
wind as renewable energy could lead to 87%-94% reduction in the emission of greenhouse gas.
The idea of AVs may appear to be a distant possibility. The growth in automation
technology and provision of cars with semi-autonomous features is a clear indication that the AV
technology is in the offing. The AV technology has the potential of reducing environmental
pollution that is caused by conventional gasoline vehicles. However, the problem is that that AV
may not be suitable in U.S due to the country’s political system. The roads are also in poor
conditions making it hard for AVs to operate. Additionally, AVs are more expensive than
conventional vehicles. A cheapest AV car goes for $30,000 while a conventional car can be
purchased at an average cost of $21,500. Overly, with the transportation sectors coming second
as the highest emitter of greenhouse gas in U.S, the country can address this problem by
encouraging adoption of AVs.
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Stanton, N. A., & Landry, S. (2017). Advances in Human Aspects of Transportation:
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