Last week, the SARTRE project completed its first demonstration of vehicle platooning, which is a convoy of vehicles where one professional driver in a lead vehicle drives the entire line of other vehicles.
According to the SARTRE project , which stands for Safe Road Trains for the Environment, each car measures the distance, speed and direction of the car in front of it and adjusts accordingly. All vehicles are totally detached and can leave the procession at any time. But once in the platoon, drivers don’t need to drive and can do other things while the platoon proceeds towards its destination.
The project is partially funded by the European Commission  and is comprised of collaborating companies such as Idiada and Robotiker-Tecnalia of Spain, Institut für Kraftfahrwesen Aachen (IKA) of Germany, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Volvo Car Corporation  and Volvo Technology of Sweden. SARTRE is led by Ricardo UK Ltd.
The tests, carried out last week at the Volvo Proving Ground in Sweden, included a lead vehicle and single following car. The steering wheel of the following car moves by itself as the vehicle follows the lead truck around the country road test track. The driver is able to drink coffee or read a paper, using neither hand nor foot to operate his vehicle, says SARTRE. This was the first time the system was tried outside the simulators.
According to SARTRE, platooning can increase road safety, since it minimizes the human factor that is the cause of at least 80% of the road accidents. Platooning can also save on fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions by up to 20%. It may also have the potential to relieve traffic congestion due to the vehicles traveling at a highway speed with only a few meters gap.
“We are very pleased to see that the various systems work so well together already the first time,” says Erik Coelingh, engineering specialist at Volvo Cars. “After all, the systems come from seven SARTRE-member companies in four countries. The winter weather provided some extra testing of cameras and communication equipment.”
According to SARTRE, the technology development  is well underway and can most likely go into production in a few years time. What may take substantially longer are the public acceptance and the legislation where 25 EU governments must pass similar laws.