Auto 'Road Train' takes shape

2012-01-25 08:16

The Road Train project, with Volvo Cars as its participating automaker, has just completed its first demonstrations of a “multiple vehicle platoon”.

The test fleet included a lead truck followed by three cars driven autonomously at speeds up to 90km/h.

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


The project, which is called Sartre or Safe Road Trains for the Environment, is focused on the development of technology that can be implemented on regular highways where “platooned traffic” operates amongst other road users.

It also includes a study to identify infrastructure changes needed for the practise of vehicle platooning to become a reality, including addressing legal regulations, product liability and driver acceptance of automated vehicles.

According to Sartre, the main advantage of road trains is that the car driver is able to do other things. These road trains are also about promoting safer transport since the platoons are led by a professional driver, while the impact on the environment is reduced since the cars follow close behind one another and, so doing, benefit from lower air drag. 

  • kevin.grinaker - 2012-01-25 11:29

    Yip. Works great. So 20 Metre long or more vehicles are labelled "Abnormal", and pose overtaking risks. So this "Road Train" (not the Australian one)will cruise along at 90 Km/h with a minimum distance from the front bumper of the lead car to the back bumper of the last car of, say, 36 meters. This figure is calculated by taking all four cars being 4.5 meters long and the following distance being 6 meters. A vehicle travelling at 100 km/h needs to overtake this "train". Hmm...!! Not for South Africa. Imagine you are sitting in your car as part of this "train" typing out your very important e-mail and a mini bus taxi jumps into the gap between your car and the one in front of you.

      Gerrit - 2012-01-25 16:08

      While I agree with your comment, and that it will not work in SA with the majority of our drivers having no regard for the rules of the road, I think the idea is that ALL cars will follow the "train" and you won't have idiots trying to overtake.

      Sheda - 2012-01-25 21:38

      @Gerrit....at 90kmh the idiots are the guys following. At 30kmh per hour slower in 1hr of morning traffic you increase 120km of road on a 4 lane highway. So you reduce a bit of speed and increase a lot more traffic build up - not wise - typical from a car company that talks safety and does not have a clue about DRIVING or passion or common sense. BTW Gerrit why don't you propose a 10kmh speed limit. Oh! you can see the illogical side of that but not of slowing down by 30kmh. No hope.....

      Gerrit - 2012-01-26 07:17

      @Sheda: I am all for doing 120km/h on the highway. In theory, if the system works properly, there is no reason why they can't up the speed to 120km/h by using a smaller lead vehicle instead of a truck. And by the way. If everyone did this on the Ben Schoeman between PTA and JHB at rush hour you will have a higher average speed than what is currently achieved due to traffic, even at 90km/h. The idea is to get more cars in to the same amount of space, all traveling at a constant speed. Out on the open road you can drive the car yourself and have all the enjoyment you desire. (Face it, there is very little driving enjoyment or passion from sitting in traffic every day)

      kevin.grinaker - 2012-01-26 12:50

      Gerrit. Let us be practical here. Let's say that I live in Midstream (I don't;- Knysna)and I am going to join the Ben Schoeman freeway at the on ramp there. The "road train" that I now want to join is travelling in the "fast lane" and the lead vehicle is passing the Buccleuch Interchange at this time, and the tail gunner is passing Swartkops Airfield, how in the hell do I join the "train" without causing a major balls up to it? So no, Gerrit, not "ALL cars will follow the train" as you say, because it will be absolutely impossible to do this.

      Gerrit - 2012-01-27 07:02

      @Kevin: I agree, from a practical point of view this particular system might not be the best. There have been other systems over the years that uses sensors built into the road that guides the cars, as well as on board systems to allow the cars to talk to each other, which makes a lot more sense, and would allow your car to communicate with the other cars to allow you to join the traffic flow easily. I just like the idea of this sort of system for the daily commute. It gives you basically the same convinience as taking the train (you can check emails etc.), but it combines the flexibility of having your own car available if you need to go somewhere during the day.

      kevin.grinaker - 2012-01-27 13:50

      You are absolutely spot on there, Gerrit. That makes a whole lot more sense. (-_-)

  • Kwashic - 2012-01-25 12:13

    yep.... my thoughts exactly. how do other drivers interact with this 'train'. cant overtake. They will have to wait until the whole road is a dual carriageway, allowing faster traffic to use the passing lane without interfering with oncoming traffic. That would give the option to users who want to save fuel by riding along the train.

      Sheda - 2012-01-25 21:46

      and the guy saves one1/100km travelling at 90kmh. Adds 20min/100km to his trip. Saves R10 fuel however if he owns a car he probably earns a minimum of R80/hr. So he loses R27 to save R10. Makes sense ??????

  • Riaan Barnard - 2012-01-25 15:12

    And all four cars will hit the same pothole!!!

      kevin.grinaker - 2012-01-26 13:02

      Lol, Riaan, but exactly! And a Bus coming in the opposite direction bursts a tyre, crashes through the median in the freeway, hits the lead vehicle and pandemonium reigns while all the occupants (supposed drivers) of the, following, vehicles toss their coffee, news papers, laptops, ipads, secretaries, etc... off their laps just before they "die".

  • pages:
  • 1