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First on-road demonstration of SARTRE vehicle platooning

First on-road SARTRE mini-platoon. Click to enlarge.

The EU-financed SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project has carried out the first successful demonstration of its vehicle platooning technology at the Volvo Proving Ground close to Gothenburg, Sweden. (Earlier post.) This marks the first time the EU-financed development teams in SARTRE have tried their systems together outside the simulators.

Vehicle platooning, as envisaged by the SARTRE project, is a convoy of vehicles where a professional driver in a lead vehicle drives a line of other vehicles. Each car measures the distance, speed and direction and adjusts to the car in front. All vehicles are totally detached and can leave the procession at any time. But once in the platoon, drivers can relax and do other things while the platoon proceeds towards its long haul destination.

Platooning is designed to improve a number of things: Firstly road safety, since it minimizes the human factor that is the cause of at least 80% of the road accidents. Secondly, The estimated fuel consumption saving for high speed highway operation of road trains is in the region of 20% depending on vehicle spacing and geometry. It is also convenient for the driver because it frees up time for other matters than driving. And since the vehicles will travel in highway speed with only a few meters gap, platooning may also relieve traffic congestion.

The tests carried out included a lead vehicle and single following car. The steering wheel of the following car moves by itself as the vehicle smoothly follows the lead truck around the country road test track. The driver is able to drink coffee or read a paper, using neither hand nor foot to operate the vehicle.

The technology development is well underway and can most likely go into production in a few years time, Volvo noted. What may take substantially longer are the public acceptance and the legislation where 25 EU governments must pass similar laws.

Part-funded by the European Commission under the Framework 7 programme, SARTRE is led by Ricardo UK Ltd and comprises collaboration between the following additional participating companies: Idiada and Robotiker-Tecnalia of Spain, Institut für Kraftfahrwesen Aachen (IKA) of Germany, and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Volvo Car Corporation and Volvo Technology of Sweden. The objectives of SARTRE may be summarized as:

  1. To define a set of acceptable platooning strategies that will allow road trains to operate on public highways without changes to the road and roadside infrastructure.
  2. To enhance, develop and integrate technologies for a prototype platooning system such that the defined strategies can be assessed under real world scenarios.
  3. To demonstrate how the use of platoons can lead to environmental, safety and congestion improvements.
  4. To illustrate how a new business model can be used to encourage the use of platoons with benefits to both lead vehicle operators and to platoon subscribers.

The SARTRE project formally started in September 2009 and will run for a total of three years.



What is a "professional driver"? If he obeys the laws then drivers in the platoon will want to go faster and leave it. I've had it with "professional" bus, truck, taxi, train, delivery drivers, speeding and tailgating whenever the opportunity arrises, running into bridges or off the road, falling asleep, eating sandwiches, texting, staring at their GPS displays. I wouldn't trust any professional driver to lead a convoy like this. The platoon concept is a great project for engineers and is a clever way to get investment dollars from government.

But is it something we need and really going to increase safety? I've heard the claim before that the human factor is removed, and therefore that makes it safer. But, where is the evidence provided by multiple scenarios? For example. A Corvette and Lada are both in the same convoy. The lead driver has to slam on the brakes because a vehicle cuts in front of him. The corvette has a stopping distance from 60 to 0 mph of 110 feet, while the Lada stopping distance is 160 feet. So the Lada crashes into the Corvette because the convoy concept puts vehicles close together to relieve traffic conjestion. That's one scenario which suggests safety is smoke and mirrors with road convoys. Maybe they forgot to say that only cars with stopping distance of 110 feet are allowed in the convoy.


Wouldn't like to have to overtake one of those.


Estimates of 41,000 to 45,000 traffic deaths occur every year within the U.S.. Walkers and bikers account for 15% of the total traffic deaths each year. Fewer than 9% of those deaths involve commercial vehicles. More than 80% of those accidents are the fault of the non-commercial driver. Of those death related accidents only 4% of trucks are fatigue related. Drinking related accounted for .06% of those accidents.

The "cuts in front" scenario won't happen as you describe it because the lead vehicle is chosen to be a truck/bus/etc. for a reason: These large heavy vehicles will have the longest stopping distance of the whole train. And to get the most benefit from the idea the following cars would need to follow close enough to draft, that's too close to allow cutting-in.


This would also work with dual-mode vehicles, but even better because no steering is required when running on rails.



What are your statistics supposed to prove? That "professional drivers are safer than others? Perhaps, but you haven't been riding a metro bus for five years like I have. I've seen it all. At any rate, big trucks are 2 % of vehicles, but account for 8 % of accidents. Far too many passenger bus accidents, including a head-on on my bus line, in this country to say any bus driver is safe because he or she is "professional.

"Cuts in front" of the lead driver won't happen? Really? In USA?

Anything can happen on the road. Plenty of stupid drivers every day cut somebody off, merge or change lanes improperly, etc.

Where does the article say the lead vehicle has to be a truck, or a vehicle with long stopping distance?

If SARTRE automotive engineers really want to save lives, threy should be making cars and trucks that automatically obey the speed limit. Oh wait, this has already been done. All we need is politicians that have the guts to force auto companies to put these systems in the cars. From a safety point of view, years of research on the road convoy concept is is like the virtual border fence. That billion dollars DHS gave Boeing could have built a great old technology fence and paid for a lot border agents.


@ai vin

In 2008 37% of traffic fatalities were alcohol related -- not professionals, I assume. That does not count distracted drivers texting or talking on cell phones. http://www.alcoholalert.com/drunk-driving-statistics.html

"Car Crash Stats: There were nearly 6,420,000 auto accidents in the United States in 2005. The financial cost of these crashes is more than 230 Billion dollars. 2.9 million people were injured and 42,636 people killed. About 115 people die every day in vehicle crashes in the United States -- one death every 13 minutes." (http://www.car-accidents.com/pages/stats.html)

Provide alternatives such as dual mode vehicles and mass transit options and we could probably save $100 billion, a million injuries and 25,000 deaths.


I agree with E-P. Put all cargo trailers on flat rail cars and use e-tractors at each ends for collection/delivery.

This way you would reduce crude oil consumption and import,trade deficit, GHG, road damages, road accidents. It would really be a win-win-win + solution.



Please remember I said "The "cuts in front" scenario won't happen as you describe it" not that cut in fronts wouldn't happen at all. And to find where it says the lead vehicle has to be a truck or other vehicle with long stopping distance I googled the idea and found additional info.

However you are right about the accident rates: Looking into it further I also found - "In 2008, large trucks accounted for 4 percent of registered vehicles and 8 percent of miles traveled. Per unit of travel, large trucks are involved in more fatal crashes than passenger vehicles — 1.7 crashes per 100 million miles traveled in 2008 for large trucks, compared with compared with 1.4 for passenger vehicles." And when you concider most of those truck miles would have been on the highways, which are supposed to be safer, it doesn't look good at all.

So all I can say now is "mea culpa."

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