|SARTRE multiple vehicle platoon on the test track. Click to enlarge.
The SARTRE project (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) (earlier post) has recently completed the first successful test demonstration of a multiple vehicle platoon, with Volvo Car Corporation as the only participating car manufacturer. The test fleet included a lead truck followed by three cars driven entirely autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h (56 mph), with no more than a 6-meter (20-foot) gap between the vehicles.
The project is being driven by seven European partners and is the only one of its kind to focus on the development of technology in which platooned traffic operates in a mixed environment with other road users.
Vehicle platooning, as envisaged by the SARTRE project, is a convoy of vehicles in which a professional driver in a lead vehicle heads a line of closely following vehicles. Each following vehicle autonomously measures the distance, speed and direction and adjusts to the vehicle in front. Once in the platoon, drivers can do other things while the platoon proceeds towards its long-haul destination. All vehicles are detached and can leave the procession at any time.
In January 2011, SARTRE carried out the first successful demonstration of its vehicle platooning technology at the Volvo Proving Ground close to Gothenburg, Sweden, with a single following car. (Earlier post.) This marks the first time the EU-financed development teams in SARTRE have tried their systems together outside the simulators.
The SARTRE project is addressing the three cornerstone transportation issues of environment, safety and congestion while at the same time encouraging driver acceptance through the prospect of increased “driver comfort”. The objectives of SARTRE may be summarized as:
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.
To enhance, develop and integrate technologies for a prototype platooning system such that the defined strategies can be assessed under real world scenarios. To demonstrate how the use of platoons can lead to environmental, safety and congestion improvements.
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 aim is for the entire road train to be completed in autumn 2012. By then we will have four vehicles after one lead vehicle driving at 90 km/h.—Erik Coelingh, technical project manager at the Volvo Car Corporation
The SARTRE project is being driven by seven European partners and is the only one of its kind to focus on the development of technology that can be implemented on conventional highways in which platooned traffic operates in a mixed environment with other road users.
Recognizing that the challenge of implementing road train technology on Europe’s highways is not solely a technical matter, SARTRE also includes a major study to identify what infrastructure changes will be needed for vehicle platooning to become a reality. A number of stakeholder discussions will therefore be held.
The participants in the first discussion included technical experts, politicians, legislators and traffic safety researchers. At the workshop a number of non-technical challenges for road trains were discussed, such as legal regulations, product liability and driver acceptance of automated vehicles.
Key future requirements identified were the need to agree a common terminology for platooning, such as criteria for defining when a vehicle becomes fully, as opposed to partially or even highly automated, and the need to address multiple and varied national regulatory law or to harmonize regulatory law.
Part-funded by the European Commission under the Framework 7 programme, SARTRE is led by Ricardo UK Ltd and includes 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 SARTRE project formally started in September 2009 and will run for a total of three years.