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Technologies Combined: Vehicle Electrification and Automation

The modern advanced vehicle technology landscape is dominated primarily by two particular developments: electric vehicles (generally battery powered, although hydrogen fuel cells are beginning to come into greater prominence) and autonomous vehicles. Fully electric vehicles have been around since the 1800s, dipping in popularity throughout the 20th century before experiencing a large resurgence in recent years. Autonomous vehicles, on the other hand, are a much newer development in vehicle technology. Fully autonomous vehicles are still not available for over-the-road use; however, geofenced areas such as ports and warehouses are beginning to incorporate fully self-driving vehicles into their fleets at increasing rates, indicating that over-the-road use may be a reality sooner than many may think.

While these two technologies have very different histories (and serve very different purposes - EVs are usually designed and marketed with the intent to reduce environmental damage, whereas AVs serve to reduce motor vehicle accidents and make life easier for both commercial and consumer drivers), they are both becoming increasingly important for survival in the automotive and fleet management industries. And, of course, it naturally follows that autonomous and electric technologies will ultimately be combined.

Meet the A-EV (Autonomous Electric Vehicle): a relatively new concept that is still in very limited production, mostly due to both the cost and current shortcomings of autonomous vehicle technology in over-the-road applications. However, as AV technology gains more and more investment in research and development, it is unlikely to lag behind for very long. Many AV experts, in addition to large automotive OEMs like General Motors, believe that autonomous and electric vehicle technologies are inherently linked. As GM puts it, “Electric vehicles allow for simpler integration of the advanced technologies required for the cleanest and safest operation of autonomous vehicles.”

As mentioned previously, one of the largest barriers to widespread adoption and implementation of autonomous vehicle technology (and, correspondingly, the implementation of A-EVs) is cost. AVs require high levels of investment in development and production, as well as potentially high costs for fleets looking to convert to autonomous. These costs may seem insurmountable at first glance, but in reality the outlook is much less intimidating. While the initial costs of converting a fleet to autonomous technology may be high, AV technology will lead to much lower costs in the long run. With fewer accidents, a company may become eligible for lower insurance rates. Furthermore, even an ICE-powered AV has lower rates of fuel consumption than a non-AV. With the addition of EV technology, fuel costs could be lowered even further, meaning that the integration of autonomous and electric vehicle systems could actually lower the cost of AV adoption and propel autonomous technology forward.

Ultimately, the benefits (cost-related and otherwise) of AV technology outweigh the costs of development, production, and adoption by fleets. When combined with electric solutions, these benefits become even greater. Among other benefits, A-EVs promise clean energy, fewer accidents, lower fuel costs, and less stress for drivers and fleet managers alike - what could be better for the future of vehicle technology?

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