The SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, launched in 2011, has been completed. The SARTRE Project studied the feasibility of semi-autonomous follow-the-leader technology for use on public roads. Partners in the project concluded that it could be integrated in an environment that included other road users.
The SARTRE Project didn’t remove humans from the driving equation, instead allowing vehicles to communicate with each other to form road trains behind a lead vehicle operated by a professional driver. Road tests saw a manually driven truck followed by one truck and a Volvo S60, V60 and XC60. Each of three following cars was driven up to speeds of 56 mph with distances between the vehicles as small at 13ft.
Erik Coelingh, Product Attribute Manager, Driver Assistance at Volvo Car Corporation commented:
“The basic principle is that the following vehicles repeat the motion of the lead vehicle. To achieve this we have extended the camera, radar and laser technology used in present safety and support systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control, City Safety, Lane Keeping Aid, Blind Sport Information System and Park Assist Pilot.”
Volvo says that, within ten years, there could be a system which sees semi-automated cars mixing with conventional traffic – the only barriers are legislative.
“The road train is the best of two worlds. You can enjoy all the multi-tasking possibilities of public transportation behind the wheel of your own car.”
We think autonomous vehicles in one shape or another are certain on their way, but wonder if they will ever be adopted by the masses. Whether it’s for cost or safety reasons, they may become the preserve of the few rather than the many, which could create some kind of modernistic two-tier traffic system. How proper drivers take to them, we’ll have to wait and see.