Self-driving cars most likely to be electric vehicles

September 27, 2016

Although it will be possible to make a competent self-driving car using older internal combustion engine (ICE) technology, according to Lux Research, it is most likely that self-driving cars will be overwhelmingly electric. It will be easier to implement autonomous features on electric vehicles (EVs) as self-driving cars require more from a car’s electrical subsystem which would suit the higher voltages and energy stored in an EV battery pack. It is also simpler to control an electric motor and battery pack than an internal combustion engine.

So far,  in their prototyping of autonomous features, General Motors, Nissan, and Google have each opted to use EVs as their starting platform. In addition to simple engineering solutions, Cosmin Laslau, senior analyst at Lux Research, believes that technology-focused early adopters would want to see both innovations in the same car.

He said: 'Early adopters often seek out technological differentiation as their reward, which means they want the OEM [original equipment manufacturer] to include both electric and self-driving features in the same car.

'Refuelling is also another important factor that will encourage the use of EVs as platform for autonomous driving.  Autonomous EVs could self-charge using wireless charging technology, which is much easier than the complex process of refuelling an autonomous car with petrol or diesel. An autonomous car can drive to an open parking spot, align itself properly, and self-charge using wireless charging. It can also move itself when done, allowing for a higher utilisation rate of charging infrastructure, while EVs that are not self-driving would be stuck there until their owners moved them.'

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