Self-driving vehicle company Cruise announced earlier this week that it is acquiring solar energy to power its fleet of autonomous vehicles in San Francisco. Cruise is doing so through Farm to Fleet, a program it created with BTR Energy to buy renewable energy credits (RECs) from agricultural farms that also house solar farms.
In a corporate blog post, Cruise said that starting earlier this spring it had been buying RECs from Sundale Vineyards and Moonlight, two farms in California’s Central Valley. Farm to Fleet doesn’t just provide cleaner energy to Cruise’s cars, but it also generates revenue for those farms in the program.
Cruise’s announcement is a good reminder that all of the autonomous vehicles we write about here at The Spoon — delivery trucks, sidewalk robots, drones — require power. On its face that may seem obvious, but the question of where and how autonomous vehicles are powered is an important one for robot startups, delivery services and local governments.
As Cruise notes, it operates its own electric vehicle charging stations, so the move to green power is one it can make entirely on its own. But what happens with smaller sidewalk robots or drones that are deployed to various businesses in dense urban areas? Space needs to be created for to vehicles re-charge, and that space can’t interfere with the natural flow of people on public sidewalks and streets. Once you have the space, then you need the actual electricity and enough of it. Robot and drone companies like to tout how their solutions are greener than having a two-ton car on the road bringing you a burrito. That is true, but that commitment to a cleaner world should ideally extend to greener power
This isn’t the most pressing issue for robot and drone companies, which have a lot more immediate concerns like regulations and economics of scale to deal with as they come to market. But thinking about basic infrastructure issues like electricity now, will help autonomous vehicle companies deploy more easily in the future.