Three cars and a truck successfully drove themselves 125 miles down a highway in Spain, using radar and laser tracking to follow each other closely while their human passengers read magazines. Project SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) tested the vehicles alongside actual human motorists, some of whom may have caused safety issues of their own by rubbernecking at the hands-free steering wheels.
Volvo and car automation company Ricardo wanted to test how well the cars could follow a lead vehicle in real traffic. A truck and three Volvo vehicles, an XC60, a V60 and a S60, drove behind a manned, controlled truck cruising at 53 miles per hour. The team covered 125 miles in one day, according to Volvo, which is one of the main SARTRE partners. The cars traveled between 16 and 50 feet apart throughout the test.
The vehicles used wireless cameras, radar and laser sensors to monitor the lead truck as well as other cars. The entire platoon follows the actions of its leader, including steering, braking and accelerating, according to Volvo. In that sense, the cars aren't totally autonomous, but collectively following one human-controlled vehicle. Watch in the video below as one of the passengers requests to join the platoon, and nervously takes her hands off the wheel.
Project SARTRE has been testing this configuration for several years now, but this is the first time the self-driving cars got themselves on the road with other traffic. It's a key piece of evidence that a system like this could work.
People are going to do stupid things (read the paper, apply makeup, drink coffee) during their morning commute whether or not the car is driving itself, so a system like this could improve road safety. It could also reduce emissions by letting cars drive in close proximity to each other, drafting off the leader. After this test, the project's next phase is to analyze platoon fuel consumption, according to Volvo.
What happens when a car in the middle of the train decides to take a 'rest' stop?
As a commuter who drives over two hours each way to work (not every day ;) ), I pray for this technology to come out immediately. I have even felt that an area (read state or country) that truly wants to adopt this could designate a lane specifically for autonomous vehicles on larger highways.
ErnestTee has a great point. When a lead car decides to take an exit ramp, does the first car behind him start beeping like crazy saying "GRAB THE WHEEL IMMEDIATELY cuz we are heading off course!!!" Or does the local gas station only see people stop by the 10's or 20's?
I don't want one of these autonomous cars things tailgating me...
so let me get this stright if i had one of these following me and i floored my car the auto car would stay the same distance behind me? if so i think i found a new game to play on the highway.
I support Autonomous vehicles. There are too many accidents, and deaths on the roadways caused by Human error in judgement. It's about time for change.
These comments hurt my brain. Lets all assume they are designing this to be as terrible as possible, and that if you're in the middle you're stuck forever and that you can just /follow any random driver and hope they are headed where you are going... It would have been nice if the writer linked to all the other similar articles on these trains.
This system is set up to that a designated lead car would drive along common commuter routes, like suburbs to in town on the highway. If you see a train, you can join in and relax a bit on your way into work (and possibly save a few bucks on fuel due to drafting). The lead car would be like a bus driver type employee whose sole purpose is the lead the train safely and efficiently in and out of town during busy times of the day.
i welcome our robotic overlords!!! i wont mind being their pet to experiment on!!! if this becomes major will we still need licenses?
"religion is like a prison for the seekers of wisdom"
If you become a pet of the robotic overlords, yes they will give you a license. But most likely it will be a tattooed electronic tracking marker or GPS RF network implant within your own body. The robotic overlords will have no need to license or track the cars. It is the humans they are most interested in.
Not that I wanna hurt your brain, and I certainly don't think that the folks working on this are trying to make it 'turrible' (love the way C Barkley says 'turrible'), but unless drivers who participate in this 'train' agree beforehand that they will join at a certain location and remain with the train until a certain destination (and I supppose pay the conductor for his time and fuel costs), then one has to consider the effects of cars dropping out of the queue. And just suppose that someone should run out of gas or have a flat tire. Presents some interesting programming 'do loops', don't you think?
OK, so in the nominal case this works fine.
What happens if the leader has some sort of issue? -- flat tire, road hazard, and so on. Suddenly the leader is making violent manuvers. Does everyone else join in the fun?
Places with winter weather like we have would be especially intriguing.
I'm not saying that these issues can't be solved ( nor am I saying that they can :) ). I just wonder if the project has even begun addressing these types of issues.
I wonder what would happen if the lead car went through an intersection and then the light was turning red. Would the train keep following it?
This is how that would work. If a car wants to leave, the other cars work around it. I assume if the front truck had an issue, they would all safely disconnect.
John has a point as well does Ernest, but as an itroductory technology, it will have its itroductory problems. I would reason these obstacles would be tackled with sensors as the problems of automotives in days past have been resolved. Sensors that don't transmit to a central computer but to a communicative computer designated for each car, much like a 'Walkie Talkie'. When this technology is perfected by imperfect standards, I believe we would find that our mode of travel on an everyday basis will not be land-locked, and this 'flat tire' will not be a hinderance due to our autos not having a paved road. We will, I imagine go around it.