The fact that autonomous systems being tested in this age requires a lot of computing power which in turn results in high electric power has been over looked. It is also taken for granted that in the near future cars will be electric or hybrid but much more complex level 3 through level 5 systems will also require a lot more computing power to run, placing their requirements at odds with the car’s own powertrain.
According to Bloomberg referencing BorgWarner prototypes for fully autonomous driving systems will consume energy from 50 up to100 laptops which is equal to 2 – 4 kilowatts of electricity, which in a modern car makes it 5 to 10 percent more difficult to meet fuel economy and carbon emission targets.
While this sort of problem can seem to be trivial, or too far in the future, the factor of an energy drain by all of the sensors and computing power is not staying still as governments continue to adopt ever more stringent fuel economy standards. Essentially, fuel economy requirements are pulling the engineers of electric and hybrid cars in one direction, while the race towards greater automation is pulling energy demands in another direction.
The best case offer for now as regards this problem, according to experts who spoke to Bloomberge, it looks like gasoline electric hybrids is the way pending when a big enough breakthrough in battery technology is achieved that can cater for plenty of range and autonomous functions for pure electric vehicles. Industry observers expect the very first fully-autonomous cars to be robotaxis rather than commuter cars; te latter will have the luxury of juicing up while their owners are at work or at home, while autonomous taxis will be on the road pretty much the whole time. This means that their energy requirements will easily dwarf those of smaller privately-owned autonomous cars, and absent a huge gain in battery storage capacities it’s likely that
Observers of the Industry expect the very first fully-autonomous cars to be robotaxis rather than commuter cars; the latter will have the luxury of juicing up while their owners are at work or at home, while autonomous taxis will be on the road pretty much the whole time. This means that their energy requirements will easily dwarf those of smaller privately-owned autonomous cars, and absent a huge gain in battery storage capacities it’s likely that robotaxis will be gas-electric hybrids.
“They’re going to favor plug-in hybrid EVs, 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,” Sam Jaffe, founder of Cairn Energy Research Advisors told Bloomberg.
For now car producers in the likes of Ford Motors view hybrids as the logical powertrain to be coupled with autonomous technology, also pointing out that pairing autonomous systems exclusively with electric cars is restrictive as a business model. In other words, when it comes to encouraging acceptance of autonomous tech in the marketplace — a process that is just getting underway — pairing autonomous tech with electric cars introduces an extra hurdle for automakers. This is why the first truly autonomous cars are likely to be hybrids even though Tesla’s Autopilot can seem like an example of the opposite trend. The difference, of course, is that Tesla doesn’t have the option of offering a hybrid — it was an electric car company before it ventured into autonomous driving systems — and other automakers are not likely to go all-electric for some time.