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A schematic of selected opportunities to reduce greenhouse emissions from transportation using machine learning. From "Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning."[1]

Transportation systems form a complex web that is fundamental to an active and prosperous society. Globally, the transportation sector accounts for about a quarter of energy-related CO2 emissions.[2] In contrast to the electricity sector, however, transportation has not made significant progress to lower its CO2 emissions[3] and much of the sector is regarded as hard to decarbonize.[4] This is because of the high energy density of fuels required for many types of vehicles, which constrains low-carbon alternatives, and because transport policies directly impact end-users and are thus more likely to be controversial.

Passenger and freight transportation are each responsible for about half of transport GHG emissions.[5] Both freight and passengers can travel by road, by rail, by water, or by air (referred to as transport modes). Different modes carry vastly different carbon emission intensities. At present, more than two-thirds of transportation emissions are from road travel,[5] but air travel has the highest emission intensity and is responsible for an increasingly large share. Strategies to reduce GHG emissions from transportation include:[5]

  • Reducing transport activity,
  • Improving vehicle efficiency,
  • Alternative fuels and electrification,
  • Modal shift (shifting to lower-carbon options, like rail).

Each of these mitigation strategies offers opportunities for ML. While many of us probably think of autonomous vehicles and ride-sharing when we think of transport and ML, these technologies have uncertain impacts on GHG emissions,[6] potentially even increasing them. In reality, ML can play a role for decarbonizing transportation that goes much further. ML can improve vehicle engineering, enable intelligent infrastructure, and provide policy-relevant information.[1] Many interventions that reduce GHG emissions in the transportation sector require changes in planning, maintenance, and operations of transportation systems, even though the GHG reduction potential of those measures might not be immediately apparent. ML can help in implementing such interventions, for example by providing better demand forecasts. Typically, ML strategies are most effective in tandem with strong public policies.



Journals and conferences

Societies and organizations

Past and upcoming events

Libraries and tools


Selected problems


  1. 1.0 1.1 Rolnick, David; Donti, Priya L.; Kaack, Lynn H.; Kochanski, Kelly; Lacoste, Alexandre; Sankaran, Kris; Ross, Andrew Slavin; Milojevic-Dupont, Nikola; Jaques, Natasha; Waldman-Brown, Anna; Luccioni, Alexandra (2019-11-05). "Tackling Climate Change with Machine Learning". arXiv:1906.05433 [cs, stat].
  2. IPCC. Global warming of 1.5°C. An IPCC special report on the impacts of global warming of 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels and related global greenhouse gas emission pathways, in the context of strengthening the global response to the threat of climate change, sustainable development, and efforts to eradicate poverty [V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, H. O. Portner, D. Roberts, J. Skea, P.R. Shukla, A. Pirani, Y. Chen, S. Connors, ¨ M. Gomis, E. Lonnoy, J. B. R. Matthews, W. Moufouma-Okia, C. Pean, R. Pidcock, N. Reay, M. Tignor, T. ´ Waterfield, X. Zhou (eds.)]. 2018.
  3. Creutzig, F.; Jochem, P.; Edelenbosch, O. Y.; Mattauch, L.; Vuuren, D. P. v.; McCollum, D.; Minx, J. (2015-11-19). "Transport: A roadblock to climate change mitigation?". Science. 350 (6263): 911–912. doi:10.1126/science.aac8033. ISSN 0036-8075.
  4. Davis, Steven J.; Lewis, Nathan S.; Shaner, Matthew; Aggarwal, Sonia; Arent, Doug; Azevedo, Inês L.; Benson, Sally M.; Bradley, Thomas; Brouwer, Jack; Chiang, Yet-Ming; Clack, Christopher T. M. (2018-06-28). "Net-zero emissions energy systems". Science. 360 (6396): eaas9793. doi:10.1126/science.aas9793. ISSN 0036-8075.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 R. Schaeffer, R. Sims, J. Corfee-Morlot, F. Creutzig, X. Cruz-Nunez, D. Dimitriu, and M. et al. D’Agosto. Transport, in IPCC, Working Group III contribution to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, Climate Change 2014: Mitigation of Climate Change, chapter 8. Geneva [O. Edenhofer, R. Pichs-Madruga, Y. Sokona, E. Farahani, S. Kadner, K. Seyboth, A. Adler, I. Baum, S. Brunner, P. Eickemeier, B. Kriemann, J. Savolainen, S. Schlomer, C. von Stechow, T. Zwickel, J.C. Minx, (eds.)]. ¨ Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York, NY, USA, 2014.
  6. Wadud, Zia; MacKenzie, Don; Leiby, Paul (2016-04). "Help or hindrance? The travel, energy and carbon impacts of highly automated vehicles". Transportation Research Part A: Policy and Practice. 86: 1–18. doi:10.1016/j.tra.2015.12.001. ISSN 0965-8564. Check date values in: |date= (help)