Göteborg, Sweden – A series of cars driving themselves behind a lead vehicle has successfully completed the first test demonstrations of a multiple vehicle platoon. Volvo is the participating car manufacturer in the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project.

The test fleet included a lead truck followed by three cars driven entirely autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h, with a gap of no more than six metres between the vehicles.

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

The SARTRE project includes seven European partners and is the only one of its kind to focus on developing technology that can be implemented on conventional highways, in which “platooned” traffic operates in a mixed environment with other road users. The project also includes a major study to identify what infrastructure changes will be needed for vehicle platooning to become a reality, along with non-technical challenges such as legal regulations, product liability and driver acceptance of automated vehicles.

Road trains promote safer transport, since the vehicle platoons are led by professional drivers, while the environmental impact is reduced by the cars following close behind and benefiting from the lower air drag, with energy savings expected to be up to 20 per cent.

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