This sounds pretty cool – in Europe, a project to link cars headed in the same direction into semi-autonomous “road trains” is taking form and will hit the highways in the near future.
The European Union’s Safe Road Trains for the Environment (EU Sartre) initiative began last year and has really started to pick up steam (pun intended). A road train is a platoon of cars that are electronically tethered to follow closely behind a professionally driven lead vehicle (usually a bus). Drivers are in control of their vehicles and can take over the wheel when it’s time to head to an individual destination.
Engineers behind the road train hope to increase aerodynamic efficiency and reduce congestion with no changes in infrastructure. Also, it gives drivers all the benefits of carpooling without having to share a car with the guy from Marketing who sings along to every song on the radio.
The concept development has been in the works for a year and Sartre plans to have a real-world test by the end of 2010.
“We now look forward to the next stage of the work of the project, which will see vehicle tests, initially of just of a single vehicle for sensor, actuator and control-system validation,” said Tom Robinson, project coordinator for Ricardo U.K., one of Sartre’s seven project partners. “Then of a two-vehicle platoon later this year and subsequently through the remainder of the project, a multiple-vehicle platoon in order to test, develop, validate and identify remaining implementation issues for the entire Sartre system.”
Development will continue until 2012, with a five-car road train as a final project goal. You can watch the video below to see the plan in action.
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