35991_3_2Göteborg, Sweden – Volvo has successfully carried out its first demonstration of “platooning,” in which specially-equipped vehicles follow a lead driver along a preplanned route, allowing the car drivers to perform other tasks during the ride.

The demonstration was part of the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) program, partly funded by the European Commission and comprising a collaboration of several companies and research institutes. The event marked the first time the development teams in SARTRE have tried their systems together outside of simulators.

“This is a major milestone for this important European research program,” said project coordinator Tom Robinson. “Platooning offers the prospect of improved road safety, better road space utilization, improved driver comfort on long journeys, and reduced fuel consumption and hence CO2 emissions. With the combined skills of its participating companies, SARTRE is making tangible progress towards the realization of safe and effective road train technology.”

The vehicle platoon in the SARTRE project is a convoy of vehicles where a professional driver in a lead vehicle drives a line of other vehicles, each of which measures the distance, speed and direction and adjusts to the car in front. All vehicles are totally detached and can leave the procession at any time, but once in the platoon, drivers can relax and do other things while the platoon proceeds toward its long-haul destination. The program is intended to minimize crashes, save fuel, allow drivers to concentrate on other tasks, and since the vehicles will travel at highway speeds with gaps of only a few metres, possible relieve traffic congestion.

 The researchers said that the technology development could most likely go into production in a few years’ time, but that public acceptance and the legislation of 25 EU governments to pass laws allowing it would probably take substantially longer.

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