The Vitality of Autonomous Driving Simulation; Increasing Social Understanding of Electric Vehicle’s Environmental Impact

Welch, Casey, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
JACQUES, RICHARD, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Furukawa, Tomonari, EN-Mech/Aero Engr Dept, University of Virginia

Given that electric cars continue to become a dominate and growing trend, the world
should consider the entire fueling chain more seriously than ever. While it may be society’s
general understanding that electricity is a cleaner alternative to internal combustion engine cars,
that is not always necessarily the case. The entire process of the electrification of the automotive
industry must be considered. From the production of the vehicles themselves, to the source of
their electricity the environmental impact carries weight.
For my technical project, I built the much of of an autonomous driving simulator. While
it is not directly related to my STS Research there are certainly correlations. Autonomous
vehicles are closely tied to the electrification of the automotive industries. Autonomous driving
simulators are important because they allow for the safe testing of autonomous algorithms. With
autonomy in cars being increasingly prevalent it is important that they are no rushed into a
consumer environment so that the streets remain as safe as possible. Also integrating a human
operator with an autonomous vehicle in a virtual space is the best way to learn.
For my STS Research, I studied how a surge in electricity demand resulting from electric
cars would require a deeper look at the energy sector. I strongly advised readers to re-evaluate
their perceptions of nuclear energy because it is a great alternative to most renewables to cleanly,
safely, and effectively source electricity for an electric car fleet that will soon be entering the
market. The common misguided perception is that renewables are clean and worthy of
investment, while nuclear is dangerous and should be avoided. I challenge readers to reconsider
why they have these opinions.
In conclusion, the automotive industry is experiencing growth and change more rapidly
than ever before. With notable change comes both an opportunity for improvement, but also an
opportunity for mistakes. This is not to say that society should pump the breaks on changes, but
rather; use caution. Autonomous vehicles should be tested thoroughly in safe virtual
environments. Electric vehicles allow society to affect change, in terms of clean energy
production, at the snap of a finger. Nuclear energy should be reconsidered as a growing and not
stagnate industry to source electric vehicles. Society should take these changes and look at the
entirety of what they are and what they affect in order to maximize the positive of their

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Automotive Industry, Electric Cars, Self Driving, Nuclear Power

 School of Engineering and Applied Science
 Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering
 Technical Advisor: Tomonari Furukawa
 STS Advisor: Richard Jacques
 Capstone Team Members: Anne Forrest Butler, Andrew Lin, John Grant, Chet Kleppin, Mosed Saroor

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