Tuesday, 18 January 2011 13:45

Self-drive Car Platooning real world tests

They are called Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) and like something out of the film Minority Report they promise an improved way of travelling our moterways.  On the Volvo Proving Ground in Sweden, trials are underway on a new self-driving automobile system.

The time has come for real world trials of the SARTRE system, or Vehicle Platooning.

For the first time outside of laboratories and simulators, the EU-financed development teams have trialled the system of linking a series of cars together, controlled by a master professional front-man driver.

"We are very pleased to see that the various systems work so well together already the first time," says Erik Coelingh, engineering specialist at Volvo Cars. "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."


"This is a major milestone for this important European research programme," says Tom Robinson, SARTRE project coordinator, of Ricardo UK Ltd. "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 realisation of safe and effective road train technology".

'Looks like we got ourselves a Convoy!' would be a difficult utterance to avoid when partaking in a Vehicle Platoon.  Each car in the vehicle group measures the distance, speed and direction of the car at the head, driven by a professional driver.  At the same time, each vehicle is totally detached, able to leave the procession at any time.

Whilst part of the platoon however, its hands off the steering wheel time, watch a movie, play music, or partake actively in heated family arguments whilst the SARTRE system controls the cars direction and speed.



Platooning is designed to improve a number of motoring issues. First and foremost, by minimising the human factor - and therefore the incidents of driver distraction, which cause in excess of 80 per cent of road accidents - platooning offers great benefits to road safety.

Secondly, it saves fuel consumption and thus CO2 emissions by up to 20 per cent. It provides the driver with greater convenience and given the vehicles will travel at highway speed with only a few meters separating each, platooning may also relieve traffic congestion.

The technology development is well underway and could most likely go into production in a few years' time. What may take substantially longer is public acceptance as well as legislation where 25 EU governments must pass similar laws.




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Having failed to grow up Bantick continues to pursue his childish passions for creative writing, interactive entertainment and showing-off through adulthood. In 1994 Bantick began doing radio at Melbourne’s 102.7 3RRRFM, in 1997 transferring to become a core member of the technology show Byte Into It. In 2003 he wrote briefly for the The Age newspaper’s Green Guide, providing video game reviews. In 2004 Bantick wrote the news section of PC GameZone magazine. Since 2006 Bantick has provided gaming and tech lifestyle stories for iTWire.com, including interviews and opinion in the RadioactivIT section.

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