Leveraging the Hands-Free Future: Autonomous vehicles will be a transportation mainstay. Now is the time to look at opportunities and prepare to exploit them.

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Author: Pat Toensmeier
Date: Jan. 2021
From: Plastics Engineering(Vol. 77, Issue 1)
Publisher: Society of Plastics Engineers, Inc.
Document Type: Article
Length: 1,443 words
Lexile Measure: 1380L

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A survey early last year on attitudes about autonomous vehicles (AV) found that many people have yet to embrace the reality or safety of self-driving cars.

Specifically, 48 percent of respondents to PAVE Poll 2020, commissioned by Partners for Automated Vehicle Education, a U.S.-based industry coalition, said they would never ride in an autonomous taxi or ride-sharing vehicle; 20 percent said AVs will never be truly safe; and only 1 8 percent would be wait-listed for one.

AVs are a solid growth opportunity for plastics; especially commodity polymers that have limited use in conventional cars with internal combustion engines (ICE) and metal-rich structures. This is due to the heat-resistance and structural requirements of the polymers in use, which are primarily engineering thermoplastics and composites.

Despite the lack of enthusiasm for AVs in the survey, opinions could change based on the information respondents get about autonomous vehicles. For example, 60 percent said that understanding how autonomous controls work would make them more positive about the vehicles, while 58 percent say that riding in one would have the same effect.

Regardless, the move to commercialize AV technology is here to stay. Too much money is invested in AVs by automakers, software developers and others to turn back; benefits such as reduced traffic accidents and less urban and highway congestion are too important to ignore; shifts in car ownership and use are remaking the market; and too many emissions regulations are being enacted to slow the advance of AVs, which will have electric or hydrogen propulsion.

Pooling Carbon Credits

Regulation may, in fact, supply much incentive for broader AV development. Strict carbon emission rules for passenger cars that took effect in the European Union in 2020 put some automakers in a bind. Those with models that didn't meet emission requirements--95 grams of C02 per kilometer--either paid large fines or agreed to pooling arrangements that allowed them to buy credits from OEMs whose vehicles exceeded EU standards.

Fiat Chrysler and Honda are pooling with Tesla, whose all-electric fleet meets EU rules. Tesla was on track to earn $1.2 billion in 2020 from the sale of carbon credits. Other arrangements include Ford Motor Co., which...

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