A new EU project, SARTRE, is being launched to develop and test technology for vehicles that can drive themselves in long road trains on motorways. The road train technology has the potential to improve traffic flow and journey times, offer greater comfort to drivers, reduce accidents, and improve fuel consumption and hence lower CO2 emissions. The SARTRE project was announced October 22 by the SARTRE consortium, and stands for Safe Road Trains for the Environment and is part-funded by the European Commission under the Framework 7 programme.
“The SARTRE project aims to develop road trains for safe and energy efficient transportation,” says Erik Nordin, project leader for SARTRE at Volvo Technology, the centre for research and development in the Volvo Group. “With focus on encouraging deployment of road trains, we will develop the road trains for public roads using mainly already available vehicle technologies.”
The automotive industry has long been focused on the development of active safety systems that operate preventively, such as traction control and braking assistance programs. But automakers have also gone much further in proposing technology that allows vehicles to be operated without any input whatsoever from the person behind the wheel. Known as autonomous driving, this technology means that the vehicles is able to take control over acceleration, braking and steering, and can be used as part of a road train of similarly controlled vehicles.
“I do understand if many people see road trains as an unrealistic dream,” says Urban Wass, Director of Product Safety at AB Volvo. “But we have already today a lot of the technologies needed for this kind of autonomous convoy driving. In the SARTRE project, test vehicles will roll on test tracks as early as 2011. This will provide a unique opportunity to study how the road train concept can be realized in a reliable and safe way.”
Watch the Volvo Vision 2020 Concept Truck with road train technologies >>
Watch the SARTRE animation of road train technology >>