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EU and Ricardo launch SARTRE road-train project

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 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, Safe Road Trains for the Environment, will be part-funded by the European Commission under the Framework 7 program. The project will be led by Ricardo UK Ltd and will comprise collaboration between Idiada and Robotiker-Tecnalia of Spain, the Institut für Kraftfahrwesen Aachen (IKA) of Germany, the SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, as well as Volvo.

The idea of the system is that each road train or platoon will have a lead vehicle that drives exactly as normal, with full control of all the various functions. This lead vehicle is driven by an experienced driver who is thoroughly familiar with the route. For instance, the lead may be taken by a taxi, a bus or a truck. Each such road train will consist of six to eight vehicles. A driver approaching his destination takes over control of his own vehicle, leaves the convoy by exiting off to the side and then continues on his own to his destination. The other vehicles in the road train close the gap and continue on their way until the convoy splits up.

The advantage of such road trains is that all the other drivers in the convoy have time to get on with other business while on the road, for instance when driving to or from work. The road trains increase safety and reduce environmental impact thanks to lower fuel consumption compared with cars being driven individually. The reason is that the cars in the train are close to each other, exploiting the resultant lower air drag. The energy saving is expected to be in the region of 20%. Road capacity will also be able to be used more efficiently.

Left: Road trains hold the promise of providing a safe and energy-efficient mode of travel – one that is also highly effective in terms of traffic flow and road space utilization

“The SARTRE project brings together a unique mix of technologies, skills and expertise from European industry and academia, with the aim of encouraging the development of safe and environmentally effective road trains,” explains Tom Robinson, SARTRE project coordinator of Ricardo UK Ltd. “By developing and implementing the technology at a vehicle level, SARTRE aims to realize the potentially very significant safety and environmental benefits of road trains without the need to invest in changes to road infrastructure.” The first test cars equipped with this technology will roll on test tracks as early as 2011. The vehicles will be equipped with a navigation system and a transmitter/receiver unit that communicates with a lead vehicle. Since the system is built into the cars, there is no need to extend the infrastructure along the existing road network.

 

October 22, 2009

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