The Power Demands of Self-Driving Technology

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The autonomous vehicles under development today need as much as 3 kilowatts of power to run their sensors, cameras and data processors, notes Chris Thomas, chief technology officer at BorgWarner Inc.

That’s a big power drain for the vehicle—especially if the car is all-electric to begin with. Just as important, a self-driving vehicle can’t afford to have a power dropout, so autonomous vehicles need backup braking and redundant power sources.

Thomas says future computer chips will cut the power demand for autonomous driving systems by 80% or more. That still means a 10%-15% penalty in driving range compared with a non-automated EV. But Thomas says BorgWarner is working on ways to narrow the gap with increasingly efficient propulsion systems.