The EU funded SARTRE project (Safe Road-Trains for the Environment) is working to develop what is called vehicle platooning. This means that only the first vehicle has a driver. Developers hope that the idea will improve safety, efficiency and mileage, will reduce journey times, road congestion and pollution from cars. Various surveys have shown that 90% of accidents are due to boredom while driving on motorways, but with SARTRE a car can drive itself up the motorway.
Eric Chan, the project’s Chief Engineer, said: “The technology that is in the vehicles includes sensors, to sense the position of the vehicles. We have actuators that allow us to have the control/speed/steering of the vehicles. We have a communication system that shares data between the vehicles so that they can be coordinated as one.”
Linda Wahlstrom, the SARTRE Project Leader says it’s quite nice not to have to drive the car: “The benefit of a road train is that it’s safe and it’s very comfortable as a driver to be able to enjoy carrying out other activities than actual driving. I can read a magazine; I can send some emails or watch a movie.”
Erik Coelingh, the Technical Specialist for Active Safety at Volvo said: “So, we want to join the road train we see in front of us. The first thing we do is activate the platooning system and the cars all start to communicate with each other. So now we’re going to leave the road train. We push the button and send the request to the lead vehicle and we get some additional space from the car in the front and as soon as I want I can grab the steering wheel, go to menu mode and from here I’m driving myself again.”
According to developers, this technology could be on our motorways within a decade.