Volvo Tests Autonomous Vehicle ‘Road Train’
Volvo’s vision of unified, collective highway driving is now being tested on public roads in Spain. Dubbed SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), the project is based on the idea that platoons of self-driving cars could operate in unison on public highways to provide environmental, safety and comfort benefits.
Here’s how it would work. A lead vehicle with a professional driver heads up a “platoon” of cars in a “semi-autonomous control mode” so that the drivers can take their hands off the wheel and tend to other important in-vehicle activities (like e-mail, make-up, breakfast, yelling at their children…). The cars use existing features such as cameras, radar and laser sensors to monitor the lead vehicle and the other vehicles nearby. The cars mimic the lead vehicle’s movements using wireless communications and autonomous controls from Ricardo UK Ltd.
SARTRE is a joint venture between Volvo, Ricardo, Applus+ Idiada, Tecnalia Research & Innovation, Institut für KraftfahrzeugeAachen (IKA), and SP Technical Research Institute.
While the company had previously tested the concept off-road, they took the “road train” onto a Spanish highway for 124 miles in May. The lead truck, along with a Volvo S60, V60, and an XC60 traveled at 53 mph without incident, maintaining a 20-foot gap between cars.
In the next phase of the project, Volvo plans on reducing fuel consumption using the road train concept.
You can watch a video of the Volvo tests below: