The Road Train
Volvo developing hands-free driving technology
Volvo, along with tech companies from the U.K., Spain and Germany, is developing a system for hands-free driving as part of the The Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project. (First question: Did they purposely create an acronym that references a famous French existentialist and playwright dead for almost 30 years? And, if so, why?)
The hands-free system is known as a road train, and would employ a navigation system and transmitter/receiver in each participating car. Each train would have a lead vehicle -- driven manually -- and following vehicles that, via the technology, would be controlled by the lead vehicle in a single-file convoy. New vehicles could approach the convoy, signal the lead driver that they want to join, then queue at the end of the train, at which point their car is controlled by the lead vehicle and they're free to read the paper, work on a Sudoku puzzle, whatever. Drivers who wish to disengage simply signal the lead driver, who gives control of the vehicle back, and the driver exits the convoy to one side.
The concept is obviously great for safety and the fact that, hey, you can get where you're going without really paying attention to, you know, driving, but it also has some unexpected advantages: The air drag in a convoy is low enough to increase overall fuel efficiency, perhaps even up to 20 percent.
The SARTRE project began in September and is expected to run for three years, with track tests coming as early as 2011.
(Source and image via Gizmag.)
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