Utilizing a combination of cameras and radar-based sensors, the vehicles in the platoon can travel up to 55 miles per hour while maintaining a 20-foot gap between each other. An electronics-packed truck takes the lead and handles driving for all the vehicles in the group, meaning there’s still at least one driver in control.
By the end of this year, the SARTRE team hopes to have up to six vehicles rolling in line, with the potential to reduce fuel consumption, congestion and – naturally – driver error in the future.
The test fleet included a lead truck followed by three cars driven entirely autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h – with no more than 6 metres gap between the vehicles.
“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.
The main advantage of road trains is that the car driver has time over to do other things. Road trains promote safer transport since the vehicle platoons are led by a professional driver in e.g. a truck and inter-vehicle reaction response times are much quicker. Environmental impact is reduced since the cars follow close behind each other and benefit from the lower air drag. The energy saving is expected to be in the region of up to 20 percent. Road capacity will also be able to be utilised more efficiently.