% Bloomberg is guzzling the Koch Kool-Aid %

Self-driving systems need lots of power. So do EV motors. That's a problem
October 16, 2017  Jay Ramey


Ford Autonomous Vehicle Testing at Mcity
Ford Media Jun 21, 2017
Ford’s collaboration with the University of Michigan and its Mcity facility
play an important and unique role in our autonomous vehicle testing and
development efforts. The simulated urban environment allows us to safely
test our SAE Level 4-capable autonomous vehicles in scenarios like traffic
in intersections, pedestrians in crosswalks, different traffic signals and
even bicyclists. 
] ...

It's taken for granted that the autonomous systems being tested right now
require a lot of computing power, but it's easy to overlook that all of that
computing power comes at a cost of actual electric power. With the coming
autonomous future, it's also taken for granted that cars will all be
electric or hybrid by then -- Tesla's semi-autonomous Autopilot system is
already in a car that's electric -- but much more complex Level 3 through
Level 5 systems will also require a lot more computing power to run, putting
their requirements at odds with the car's own powertrain system.

How much power are we talking about?

Bloomberg says that current prototypes for fully autonomous driving systems
consume the equivalent energy of 50 to 100 laptops, citing supplier
BorgWarner. This translates to 2 to 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 adopt ever more stringent fuel economy
standards. In essence, 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 solution for now, according to experts Bloomberg spoke with, appears to
be gasoline electric hybrids before a big enough breakthrough in battery
technology is achieved that will offer 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 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, automakers like Ford view hybrids as the logical powertrain to be
coupled with autonomous tech, 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.
[© autoweek.com]
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