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Europe's road train technology ready for testing

Published: 24 November 2010

Work is accelerating at Europe's project to let clusters of cars drive together in convoy on motorways - with no input from the driver. The so-called Sartre project today issued a new video showing how its work is developing.

Sartre? Wasn't he a French novelist?

Ah, that'll be the Europe-wide Sartre road safety project. It stands for Safe Road Trains for the Environment and is part-funded by the European Commission. There are seven partners, mostly technical firms you'll never have heard of, but it's led by Britain's Ricardo UK engineering consultancy and Volvo is the lead car manufacturer.

The road train technology should cut road congestion, emissions and accidents, and improve traffic flow, says Volvo.

The first 12 months of the three-year programme has been spent in the lab, but Volvo says it is now ready to take the test on to real roads.

Road convoys: how they work

Volvo call it platooning, but to you and me it's driving in convoy. You put your faith in the lead driver while you sit back and read a book, have a coffee, chat on the phone or just sit back and listen to your tunes.

Project Sartre: what's next

The software intergration required for driving automation has already started; many limos now have radar-controlled cruise control and can brake to a halt for you. The next stage is to fit vehicle-to-vehicle communication hardware and integrated sensors. Volvo plans two-vehicle tests before the end of December 2010, building up to five-vehicle convoys in 2011 and 2012.

Testers were put through the simulator test in Spain with a 120-degree forward field view via two LCD screens through which a total length of 12 miles of virtual motorway can be driven.

It's to help Sartre to assess driver reactions while in a drivetrain environment. See Volvo's video below for an example of the drive train technology and how it works.