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article imageAutonomous cars and battery power giving engineers a headache

By Karen Graham     Oct 13, 2017 in Technology
Based on Elon Musk's predictions and the number of automakers' test vehicles being rolled out, the world is headed into a future that is both driver-less and all electric. However, engineers are now facing the reality of how much electrical power EVs use.
We don't think too much about the power needed to run computers, but according to the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, in 2016, 70 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity were needed to run all the servers in the United States.
To make the picture a bit clearer, it would take all the power output from eight nuclear power plants or twice the amount of energy supplied by all the solar panels installed in the United States to supply that much power.
For all the good things that all-electric and autonomous vehicle technologies will bring the world, including fewer accidents, and cleaner air, In reality, autonomy and battery power could end up being at odds, reports Bloomberg.
BMW s car of the future.
BMW's car of the future.
BMW Group
Autonomous vehicles use a lot of electricity
This is because automotive engineers are saying the computers needed to make self-driving cars possible use so much electrical power they actually decrease the vehicle's overall efficiency and limit the range the electric car can go on a single charge.
If you have never thought about it, let's put it this way - Many of the prototypes for fully autonomous systems consume two to four kilowatts of electricity. That is equivalent to having 50 to 100 laptops plugged in and running simultaneously in the trunk of your car.
"We’ve been battling all the time because the governments are always pushing for a few percentage points of improvement every year,” Scott Gallett, vice president of marketing at BorgWarner, a supplier of vehicle propulsion systems, said of fuel-economy standards. “This just amplifies that challenge.”
Untitled
SAE International
It's not a trivial matter
Chris Thomas, BorgWarner’s chief technology officer, says that an autonomous car with a Lever 4 or 5 autonomous driving capability will get an estimated 5 to 15 percent less fuel economy as a result of using so much power. He points out that even the number of LEDs in a brake light is carefully considered for their impact on gas mileage.
There is also processing data from laser, radar and camera sensors to be considered, and this can be an enormous challenge for coders working on machine learning. It will come down to automotive engineers developing creative innovations to offset emissions produced by feeding the car's artificial intelligence (AI) system.
“They’re worried about one watt, and now you’re adding a couple thousand,” Thomas said. “It’s not trivial.” This is because self-driving technology and its impact are at a critical time when the automotive industry and the federal government are in discussions over future fuel economy standards.
The Ford 2018  Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
The Ford 2018 Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid.
Ford Motors
Fully autonomous or Hybrid?
According to BorgWarner estimates, a fully autonomous Honda Fit will get 54.6 miles to the gallon in 2025, which is more than 5 miles per gallon below the U.S. emissions target, while a small pickup or SUV would get 45.8 mpg versus a target of 50.
As Digital Journal has been reporting, General Motors, Ford, and other automakers are already promising to deliver electric vehicles to the consumer in the next few years. GM's Cruise Automation has even said its Chevrolet Bolt that can operate without a driver is now capable of being mass produced.
But it would make sense, according to make people in the automotive sector, to start out with hybrid vehicles. A vehicle is a hybrid if it uses more than one form of onboard energy to run. Basically, this means a hybrid will have a traditional internal-combustion engine and a fuel tank, as well as one or more electric motors and a battery pack.
Sam Jaffe, the founder of Cairn Energy Research Advisors, said hybrid-electric vehicles probably make sense for the first driverless cars, which are likely to be robo-taxis. Boulder, Colorado-based Cairn Energy Research Advisors (Cairn ERA) is a global research and consulting firm specializing in energy storage.
“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,” Jaffe said.
More about selfdriving technology, autonomous vehicles, power drain, Efficiency, Emissions