The impacts of automated and connected road vehicles on energy and greenhouse gas emissions


The development of automated and connected vehicles is often linked to a change of the entire transport sector in the direction of a system that is more efficient, cost-effective, flexible and climate-friendly. Under project leader Dr. Michael Krail, Fraunhofer ISI conducted a study on behalf of the German Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI) within the framework of the Mobility and Fuels Strategy (MFS) on “The impacts of automated and connected vehicles on energy and greenhouse gases in road transport“. The study assesses the consequences of introducing these technologies and quantifies the contribution they can make to climate protection in transport in Germany up to 2050. The study analyzes private and public passenger transport as well as freight transport.



Quantifying the greenhouse gas (GHG) reduction potentials is based first on an estimation of the market rollout of the five levels of automation differentiated by 8 vehicle segments for passenger cars, trucks and buses. In order to be able to map the market development of automation levels as realistically as possible up to 2050, the study used literature analyses and stakeholder dialogs to examine and validate the technical feasibility of automation, the development of the technologies’ production costs and user prices, as well as their acceptance in society and buyers’ willingness to pay more for them. Rapid market rollout is likely to occur especially for heavy-duty trucks and long-distance coaches, because increasing levels of automation and connection here could reduce the full costs by up to 33%. In spite of the higher investment costs due to installing the technology, the full costs are significantly reduced due to savings made on drivers, insurance and fuel in road freight transport.

In contrast, the additional premiums for automation in small and compact passenger cars do not decrease enough, which is why the market rollout here is much more limited. As a result, there is only a moderate fleet penetration of automation levels 4 and 5 with 34% to 41% of the stock of passenger cars (but only a maximum of 7% in level 5), 42% to 44% of heavy and light-duty trucks and 48% to 67% of buses up to 2050.

When quantifying the reduction potentials of GHG emissions and FEC, this study distinguished the effects into so-called primary and secondary potentials. Using field tests, the effects of automated and connected driving could be quantified for all automation levels and all the analyzed vehicle types. In addition, the study dealt with the effect of the technology on the future modal split and estimated this in a model simulation using ASTRA.


Based on the estimated market rollout, large fuel and energy saving potentials due to improved efficiency can substantially reduce the GHG emissions from transport by 2050 despite the increasing share of private cars and road freight transport in the modal split. When considering the rising share of electrified vehicles by 2030 and 2050, the GHG emissions from transport in Germany decline by 7.6% (7.8 Mt. CO2eq.) due to automation and connection in 2050 compared to the reference case (REF) without automation and connection and without considering new mobility concepts, and by 11.1% (11.5 Mt. CO2eq.) in 2050 with an increasing use and supply of automated sharing concepts. There is already a GHG reduction potential of 5.2 to a maximum of 7.6 Mt. CO2eq. in 2030 and thus prior to the introduction of driverless vehicles (level 5) in road transport for both scenarios based on the calculations in this study.

The analyses show the high potential that automated and connected road vehicles have to improve energy efficiency. On the other hand, they also show that negative modal shift effects can occur if the choice of transport mode remains unchanged in Germany. If there is a substantial increase in the demand for and supply of shared mobility services such as car-sharing or ridesharing due to new door-to-door options with driverless vehicles, then automation can contribute to an additional improvement of the efficiency of the entire transport system. The impact here is shown by rising occupancy rates and overall declining mileages of private cars, if there is a drop in private car ownership and public transport is substituted by the use of automated sharing mobility services. Automated concepts in freight transport can also contribute to improving efficiency by optimizing the number of empty runs. This also results in reduced mileages.


01.09.2016 - 30.09.2018


  • German Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure (BMVI)


  • Fraunhofer IML
  • M-Five
  • PTV Group
  • Hamburg University of Technology