What if you could drive onto the highway, take your hands off the wheel, and sit back and read a book? That might not be as far-fetched as you might think if an EU-financed research project is successful. The project, dubbed SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) wants to link vehicles together in eight-car “road trains” led by a professional driver. The project, which is aimed at commuters traveling long distances, could drastically cut travel time, congestion, and fuel consumption.

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There is still plenty of work to be done before we see road trains hit the streets. A three-year research trial will determine how to build a wireless system without making costly changes to highway infrastructures. Ideally, all vehicles linked in behind the driver move automatically, and cars can exit the platoon whenever they want. The trial will also look at safety issues — for example, how to make sure a car doesn’t end up sandwiched between two giant trucks.

If all goes well with the research trials, SARTRE will begin test runs on tracks in Sweden, the UK, and Spain. Soon after that, public road trials will begin. So if you see a group of distracted drivers moving in a perfectly straight line down the highway, don’t worry — they might be in wirelessly controlled vehicles!

Via BBC News