Self driving vehicles will be neither a dream nor sci-fi anymore. Seven companies and partners, including Swedish company Volvo and Ricardo UK Ltd, work on a project called SARTRE, Safe Road for the Environment, which allows trucks and cars to follow a lead car automatically in a platoon. Aim of the project is not only to save fuel but also to secure streets and allow drivers to relax on long distance rides.
The project has been initiated 2009 by the Framework 7 programme and is funded by the European commission. Vehicles follow a leading vehicle with a special trained and well experienced driver. The vehicles monitor and mimic the leading vehicle via wireless communication. The technique as cruise control, distance keeper and cameras are already installed in the cars. Therefore the cars can mimic the leading vehicle in accelerating, braking and turning.
Imagine if you know you have a long and tiring trip ahead of you and still some papers to go through. You could use a train where you depend on times or join the road train with autonomous driving. Join the road train, connect your car via wireless communication to the leading vehicle and let technique work for you. The trips won’t be tiring anymore, work can be done and if you approach your destination you take over controll again and leave the train. Following cars will automatically close the gap you have left. This is not the only advantage of SARTRE. Fuel and the environment will be saved due to a constant velocity and driving in the slipstream. The distance with which the platoon near Madrid drove was 6 meters.
Since the train goes at a constant speed and a constant distance the risks of traffic tailbacks will be reduced, jams can be prevented as well as accidents. Traffic on the motorway will be more controlled and also more relaxed. The test last month near Barcelona was a big step towards controlled and relaxed traffic. The project group is confident about its success and introduction within the decade.
For long distance rides it is a great comfort. At first, I think, it is not easy to drive and let go from the steering wheel and enjoy a book whilst sitting in the driver’s seat. According to the group’s experience after 10.000km of driven kilometers, they stated the there is a quick acclimatization.