Life cycle sustainability assessment of autonomous heavy-duty trucks
MetadataShow full item record
Connected and automated vehicles (CAVs) are emerging technologies expected to bring important environmental, social, and economic improvements in transportation systems. Given their implications in terms of air quality and sustainable and safer movement of goods, heavy-duty trucks (HDTs), carrying the majority of U.S. freight, are considered an ideal domain for the application of CAV technology. An input–output (IO) model is developed based on the Eora database—a detailed IO database that consists of national IO tables, covering almost the entire global economy. Using the Eora-based IO model, this study quantifies and assesses the environmental, economic, and social impacts of automated diesel and battery electric HDTs based on 20 macro-level indicators. The life cycle sustainability performances of these HDTs are then compared to that of a conventional diesel HDT. The study finds an automated diesel HDT to cause 18% more fatalities than an automated electric HDT. The global warming potential (GWP) of automated diesel HDTs is estimated to be 4.7 thousand metric tons CO2-eq. higher than that of automated electric HDTs. The health impact costs resulting from an automated diesel HDT are two times higher than that of an automated electric HDT. Overall, the results also show that automation brings important improvements to the selected sustainability indicators of HDTs such as global warming potential, life cycle cost, GDP, decrease in import, and increase in income. The findings also show that there are significant trade-offs particularly between mineral and fossil resource losses and environmental gains, which are likely to complicate decision-making processes regarding the further development and commercialization of the technology.