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Self-driving cars in Boston: City’s answer to congestion and pollution?

Self-driving cars could reduce vehicular traffic in Boston between 11 percent and 28 percent, according to a report from the Boston Consulting Group and the World Economic Forum.

What’s more, average travel time for commuters could drop 11 to 30 percent; and carbon dioxide emissions, a big bugaboo in global warming, could decline as much as 66 percent locally.

And that frantic search for parking that is such a feature of much of downtown Boston? It would ease as these self-driving cars moved continuously, dropping off and picking up passengers.

There are some caveats to the report. It’s based on present-day traffic models, and its authors assume that most of these self-driving vehicles would be taxis or shuttles. What’s more, in the Boston of the future, they’re supposed to run on electricity rather than on petrol or diesel.

And! As the Globe’s Adam Vaccaro extrapolates, the boom in autonomous vehicles could, somewhat paradoxically, foster more traffic as more people take them and also as more people move farther from the regional center—freed as they would be from headache-inducing drives on the Pike, I-93, etc.

Still, it’s a tantalizing vision for Boston in particular.

As the report notes, the city was uniquely ripe for such a study “because of its strong technology cluster and openness to innovation, as well as its transportation profile: a healthy mix of car-centric American and public-transit-centric European archetypes. In addition, the city’s harsh winter weather and irregular physical layout would help test the limits of AV technology.”

We suppose if self-driving cars can work in February here, they can work just about anywhere. What’d you think?

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