Removing Regulatory Obstacles to AV Adoption Would Result in Major Fuel, Traffic Savings

  • Nearly 7 billion hours are lost in traffic and more than 3 billion gallons of fuel wasted annually in the U.S. 
  • Shared, electric AVs could result in a 50% reduction in fuel consumption, 75% reduction in CO2 emissions, and 6% reduction in congestion. 
  • Current U.S. regulations make AV deployment at scale impossible and limit innovative vehicle designs. 
  • Policymakers must address current design standards and safety regulations to allow for innovation and adoption of shared, electric AV fleets. 

Washington, D.C. SAFE’s Autonomous Vehicle (AV) Initiative released today the first in a series of policy research briefs, “Maximizing Energy Efficiency through Widespread AV Deployment,” showing that widespread adoption of shared, electric AV technology could cut fuel consumption by half and reduce carbon emissions by 75%. 

In addition to the potential efficiency gains from integrating shared, electric AV technology into our transportation systems, there would also be at least a 6% reduction in vehicle congestion, according to the brief, authored by Dr. Allanté Whitmore, Director of SAFE’s Autonomous Vehicle Initiative. 

“Across the U.S., we currently lose 7 billion hours to traffic and waste 3 billion gallons of fuel annually. Adoption of shared, electric AVs can significantly reduce our dependence on oil while freeing up precious time for people currently lost to sitting in traffic,” Whitmore said. “AV technology promises a revolution in transportation on the scale of the advent of the combustion engine more than a century ago. But the current federal regulatory framework remains a major obstacle to innovation in vehicle design and mass adoption of AVs, both of which are necessary to realize all the benefits of AV technology.” 

Allowing for adoption of shared, electric AV fleets could result not only in the fuel efficiency and emissions reductions mentioned above, but also lighter vehicles, fewer crashes—and resulting injuries and deaths—as well as more efficient routing. 

Without federal policies that accelerate AV deployment, however, the U.S. can expect more of the same: a transportation system that jeopardizes our economic sovereignty, constrains our foreign policy, and undermines our path to net-zero emissions by 2050 due to a dependence on oil; congestion that costs people millions of hours each year; limited transportation options, especially for seniors, people with disabilities, and wounded veterans; and inefficient vehicles designed around human drivers and the oil-fueled combustion engine. 

Maximizing Energy Efficiency through Widespread AV Deployment” is the first in a series of briefs outlining the path toward unlocking the potential societal benefits of allowing AVs to flourish while centering on safety and equity. 

“AVs have real potential to create safer, more accessible, and efficient transportation systems by accelerating the transition to electric vehicles and reducing our dependence on oil as a single fuel source for transportation which continues to matter in an increasingly volatile geopolitical landscape,” said SAFE President and CEO Robbie Diamond. “Dr. Whitmore’s research makes a compelling, fact-based case to policymakers for accelerating the regulatory progress to support the large-scale adoption of AVs.”  

Contact: Bridget Dunn | 202.539.7885 | 

About SAFE’s Autonomous Vehicle Initiative 

SAFE has been at the forefront of the effort to accelerate the adoption and deployment of connected, autonomous, shared, and electric vehicles. AVs hold tremendous potential to dramatically improve society by reducing accidents, improving productivity, increasing efficiency, and enhancing energy security by precipitating a shift away from oil as the dominant transportation fuel. SAFE’s Autonomous Vehicle Initiative has led the effort to study and quantify many of the benefits that these new technologies can offer and will continue to advocate for well-thought out and safe policy solutions to advance this critical technology. 

About SAFE 

SAFE is a non-partisan, non-profit policy thought leadership organization dedicated to accelerating the real-world deployment of secure, resilient, and sustainable transportation and energy solutions of the United States, and its partners and allies, by shaping policies, perceptions and practices that create opportunity for all.​