Volvo and Ricardo UK have this week announced the first successful 'real world' demonstration of the EU-financed, collaboratively-developed SARTRE 'vehicle platooning' technology, announced in 2009.
The SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) technology is built on the concept of intelligent convoys led by a professional driver in the lead vehicle, followed by modified computer-driven passenger cars.
Each vehicle in the convoy uses the SARTRE system to measure speed, direction and distance of the car directly ahead, controlling all of the vehicle's functions and leaving the driver to relax or focus on other tasks.
The vehicles can of course leave the convoy at any time, returning full control to the driver.
In the first tests, the convoy consisted of a Volvo truck as the lead vehicle, and just one modified 2011 Volvo S60 following the truck autonomously.
“This is a major milestone for this important European research program”, Tom Robinson, SARTRE project coordinator of Ricardo UK said. “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”.
By taking vehicle control out of the hands of drivers, if only for short periods, the project aims to improve not only road safety, but also fuel consumption and traffic congestion.
The SARTRE project is made up a number of international companies, including Volvo and drivetrain specialist Ricardo. Other companies and groups involved in the project include the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden and the Robotiker-Tecnalia Technology Centre.
According to Ricardo UK, the SARTRE project is making exceptional progress and could be in production within the next few years - although public acceptance and relevant legislation is expected to take quite a while longer.