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 |  Sep 17 2012, 9:02 AM

One of Volvo’s most recent projects in automotive safety, the “road train,” is finished testing and might well bring autonomous driving to life soon, the brand says.

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 |  Jan 26 2012, 7:00 PM

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A dizzying line of taillights that goes on for miles is enough to ruin anyone’s day. Pressure mounts in your temples and your skull feels like it’s going to crack. Welcome to the traffic jam migraine.

Don’t worry though, the commuter’s burden will eventually be a thing of the past. If there’s one thing luxury cars are good at doing, it’s showing us technology we can expect in econo-boxes years down the road. One of the latest features found at the forefront of cool luxury tech could stand to silence screams from angry drivers stuck in traffic: autonomous driving.

BMW is showcasing a video on YouTube that gives details on their highly-automated driving mode, which essentially drives the car for you.

Nico Kaempchen, the project manager behind the technology, explains that the car will fully take over driving under certain circumstances, but that the driver remains in control at all times. During that period, the car takes advantage of four different sensor systems to stay on track: radar, cameras, laser scanners and ultrasonics.

It’s not as simple as gluing a few sensors onto a 5-Series and hitting the road. Kaempchen tells us in the video that they need to map each road out that the car drove itself on down to the very inch (or centimeter as he says it).

BMW isn’t the only manufacturer to play with the idea of a car that drives itself. On January 24 we published a story about Volvo testing similar technology in what they call a road-train. Of course for Volvo to be involved it had to do with more than convenience. Their iteration involves a self-piloted convoy that can interact with independent traffic with the goal of making the road safer.

BMW ends their video by saying that the research they conducted will go towards improving already existent systems like their Traffic Jam Assistant. We’re not sure how far to look into the future for mass production, but rest assured when it’s here we’ll have a different outlook on traffic jams. You can watch the video below.

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 |  Jan 24 2012, 7:30 AM

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A major step towards self-driving cars, Volvo has announced its first successful test of what it calls a “road train”. As a part of the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, a test fleet of cars fitted with special equipment becomes a caravan of sorts, bunching up behind a lead vehicle and acting as a single “attached” unit – much like a train on tracks.

The driver, by giving over control of their vehicle to the train, can then use the time spent commuting to talk on the phone or eat. Being a Volvo initiative, this is more than just a convenience feature and something Volvo believes will significantly improve the safety on our roads by reducing the human potential for error. In addition, by regulating the driving and helping reduce or avoid the bunch-ups of stop-and-go traffic, it’s also a more fuel efficient method of travel. In fact, Volvo expects road trains to improve efficiency by up to 20 percent.

Volvo’s successful test included three cars following a lead truck at speeds of up to 90 km/h (56 mph), with 6 meters (roughly 20 feet) of space between each car.

“The aim is for the entire road train to be completed in autumn 2012. By then we will have four vehicles after one lead vehicle driving at 90 km/h,” says Erik Coelingh, technical project manager at the Volvo Car Corporation.

Designed to work on normal highways with other traffic, the SARTRE project is also studying what infrastructure changes would need to take place in order to bring road trains to European highways, not to mention issues of local laws and the tricky liability issue.

GALLERY: Volvo Road Train Test

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 |  Dec 08 2010, 3:53 PM

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.

[Source: Wired]

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