Could driverless cars reduce light pollution?

Within the next several decades, most of the industrialized world’s cars and trucks could be replaced by autonomous vehicles. That transformation may provide an opportunity to fix some of what’s now broken with modern transportation—including, perhaps, light pollution.

That might seem an odd intersection of environmental concerns and driverless technologies. Ethical concerns about the vehicles have focused on avoiding harm to humans, with a bit of attention paid to reducing the number of animals struck by cars. The possibilities for improvement hardly end there, though, and transportation-related light pollution is no small issue.

“The introduction of autonomous vehicles is a rare and pivotal opportunity to take up this challenge,” write researchers led by Taylor Stone, an industrial designer at Delft University of Technology, in the journalScience and Engineering Ethics. “At the least, autonomous vehicles should be designed to reduce the adverse effects of light pollution. More radically, they can strive to create darker nights and play a role in re-imagining urban nightscapes.”