How much energy can automated vehicles save?

Among the many advantages of automated vehicles that are often mentioned in media, energy saving is usually one of them. But how much energy can these vehicles actually save? A group of Master of Engineering (MEng) students at UC Berkeley is looking for the answer to this question.

This project, titled “Energy Impact of Connected and Automated Vehicles,” focuses on quantifying the energy impact of automated vehicles is one of the Capstone projects that MEng students work on as part of their curriculum. These projects, many of which are sponsored by big-name companies, give students the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have learned in the classroom in the real world.

We interviewed one of the students working on this General Motors-sponsored project, Kumudra Aung, about her experience. She graduated from Nagoya University’s automotive engineering program and is now focusing on Mechanical Engineering (ME) in the MEng program. Others members on the project team include Abigail Shelton (IEOR), Eunice Pui (IEOR), Louis Delapchier du Chassin (ME), Shivam Mistry (IEOR) and Julien Yu (IEOR).

Kumudra Aung (left) and her team members (right).

In support of our client company General Motors’ pursuit of sustainable transportation, our capstone project seeks to quantify the amount of energy connected and automated vehicles could potentially save by operating more efficiently than human drivers. By first analyzing human driver behavior, the team will develop and refine a model for a more energy-optimized automated vehicle. The model will then be used to compare the per-trip energy savings and anticipated greenhouse gas reductions.

What has set this project apart from others I have undertaken is the opportunity to work on a pressing real-world problem with industry level resources, engineers, and students from varying technical backgrounds. I particularly appreciate my peer’s diversity in experience and technical backgrounds, as it results in the generation of very different approaches to problems. I have been able to take fragments of their ideas, learn from them, and improve my own approaches as well. The experience has been tremendously valuable, as I feel that I have become a more creative and versatile engineer.

A Google search of “The Benefits of Autonomous Vehicles” will typically highlight improvements in road safety, as well as time and energy efficiency. While the first two advantages are self-evident, the last is a little more obscure — particularly with more immediate alternatives present, such as electric and fuel-cell vehicles. This capstone project is particularly exciting for me because my team and I are in the process of redefining autonomous vehicles’ capabilities, and I am looking forward to influencing how others will perceive its benefits for our society.


Kumudra Aung is a Master of Engineering student at the University of California, Berkeley, majoring in Mechanical Engineering. She earned her Bachelor’s degree in Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering from Nagoya University. Connect with Kumudra.

Berkeley Master of Engineering

Content hub for UC Berkeley’s Master of Engineering Program. Explore the many ways our students, alumni, and faculty are contributing to thier field.

Berkeley Master of Engineering

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Master of Engineering at UC Berkeley with a focus on leadership. Learn more about the program through our publication.

Berkeley Master of Engineering

Content hub for UC Berkeley’s Master of Engineering Program. Explore the many ways our students, alumni, and faculty are contributing to thier field.

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