Road trains by Volvo, also known as “platooning,” feature vehicles that automatically monitor the distance, speed and direction of the car immediately in front and mimic its actions during long-haul drives on preplanned routes.
Vehicles can leave the platoon at any time, but with the ability to concentrate on breakfast and a newspaper, we can’t see why anyone would want to.
“This is a major milestone for this important European research program,” said Tom Robinson. Robinson is the road-train project coordinator for Ricardo UK, one of the seven companies working on the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (Sartre) project, which is partly funded by the European Commission. “Platooning offers the prospect of improved road safety, better road-space utilization, improved driver comfort on long journeys and reduced fuel consumption and hence CO2 emissions,” he said.
Sartre statistics estimate that road trains could increase safety by reducing rear-end collisions, bring emissions down by up to 20 percent and allow vehicles to safely travel closer together, easing congestion. Autonomous cars would also free up drivers to make the most of their commute. The technology may be ready for production in a few years if trials continue to go well, but project organizers agree that it may take some time before public acceptance and local laws catch up to the engineering.