Sartre, which stands for Safe Road Trains for the Environment, has created technology that allows cars to “platoon”. In a platoon, a series of vehicles wirelessly connect together, slotting into position behind a lead car, which takes control of the entire train.
An array of sensors in the cars — cameras, radar and lasers — keep track of vehicle in front and allow it to remain at a safe distance and autocorrect when necessary. The lead vehicle also sends back acceleration, braking and steering data, so that the train can act in unison.
The Volvos in the test followed a lorry for 200 kilometres at an average speed of 80 kilometres per hour and with an average separation of six metres between the cars. The technology has been tested many times before on private tracks, but this was the first time that the trains had been tested on a public road, surrounded by other drivers.
“Apart from the software developed as part of the project, it is really only the wireless network installed between the cars that set them apart from other cars available in showrooms today,” Volvo’s Sartre project chief, Linda Wahlström, told Reg Hardware.
“We have slopes… it was quite windy [and there was] a lot of other traffic, and it was great to see the system could handle it,” added car automation specialist Ricardo’s chief engineer Eric Chan. “It was a very positive experience.”