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2011-01-18 09:49

STUCK BEHIND A TRUCK? Nope, it's voluntary. The car is "moored" to the bigger vehicle and will follow it like a puppy on a lead - at least until it runs out of fuel.

Platooning may be the new way of travelling on motorways in as little as ten years time - and the EU-financed Sartre project has carried out the first successful demonstration of its technology at the Volvo Proving Ground close to Gothenburg, Sweden.

This is the first time the EU-financed development teams in Sartre try their systems together outside the simulators.

Erik Coelingh, engineering specialist at Volvo Cars, said: "We are very pleased to see that the various systems work so well together already the first time. After all, the systems come from seven Sartre-member companies in four countries. The winter weather provided some extra testing of cameras and communication equipment."


Vehicle platooning, as envisaged by the Sartre project, is a convoy of vehicles where a professional driver in a lead vehicle drives a line of other vehicles.

Each car 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 towards its long haul destination.

The tests carried out included a lead vehicle and single following car. In the video, the steering wheel of the following car is seen moving by itself as the vehicle follows the lead truck around the country road test track. The driver is able to drink coffee or read a paper, using neither hand nor foot to operate his vehicle.

Sartre project coordinator,Tom Robinson, of Ricardo UK Ltd called the tests a major milestone, especially since platooning could lead to safer, more efficient road travel.

"This is a major milestone for this important European research programme," Robinson said.

"Platooning offers the prospect of improved road safety, better road space utilisation, 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 realisation of safe and effective road train technology".


Platooning is designed to improve a number of things, its developers say.

Since it minimises the human factor said to be the cause of at least 80 percent of road accidents, platooning should improve road safety.

It also saves fuel and - as a result - CO2 emissions, and allows the driver time for matters other than driving.

Since the vehicles will travel in highway speed with only a few meters gap, it is believed platooning may also relieve traffic congestion.

Development of the technology is well underway and Sartre's creators say it can most likely go into production in a few years time. What may take substantially longer are public acceptance and the legislation process where 25 EU governments must pass similar laws.

Would you want to sit behind a big truck or another car for hundreds of kilometres, say from Johannesburg to Durban? Telll us what you think in the Readers' Comments feature below.

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