Gallery: Wireless Road Trains Keep Highway Vehicles Linked Together

road train, wireless sensors, fuel efficiency, sartre

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.

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


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  1. ronaarons January 24, 2010 at 6:49 am

    The concept of ganging the independently owned cars utilizing their own power train to drive them quid in close proximity to each other is sound concept putting the responsibility of public transportation in the hands of private individuals and not some public agency.
    I believe with the advent of the electric car we will be able to eliminate the need for the lead vehicle and the wireless idea,and intern provide electro- magnetic bumpers on the front and rear of each car along with a laser controlled cruse control (similar to police radar guns) we then are able to Que up behind a car at close range to a point that the two positively charged electro- magnets repel each other ( preventing collision) thus allows a group of cars to maintain a constrant crusing speed modulated by the laser speed control. Any group of cars can form a train group, negating the need for a wireless signal and a lead car. By merely queuing behind a similarly equipped car in front of you. Any single car can exit at any time because when you do the space is made up by the car behind you.
    The key concept is like pole electro magnetic bumpers that will prevent most accidents with cars equipped with this device at high speed or on side streets and when driving independently

  2. georgegraduate December 8, 2009 at 4:46 pm

    One problem I see is if the lead driver gets hit by other vehicles that suddenly get into an accident, then the following train cars will crash into the lead and other train cars.
    The only safe way I see to have trains of cars on freeways is if they are ALL linked to a satelite type wireless system and are ALL controlled by a central computer system, much like air traffic controllers control air trafic, although because of the overwhelming amount of vehicles, it would have to be a completely computerized traffic control .
    One would have to program a commute plan into the system (much like pilots file a flight plan), entering data regarding the entrance and exit from the freeway of choice.
    And yes, there would have to be significantly upgrades in the infrastructure.
    No matter whaqt system, the problem of bottlenecking at exits is dependant of the street traffic in the cities.
    Engineers would have to deal with this issue.

  3. carloslegarda December 8, 2009 at 1:59 pm

    If I understand the idea correctly, the rest of the cars are all controlled by the lead driver. If the lead driver goes into on coming lane than all the other cars will follow. However, since the “train” is driven by a professional driver who probably was chosen for his/her responsibility and good eyesight, the drive would have already slowed down considerably. Moreover, since these cars have equipment sophisticated enough to keep them traveling in sync, they probably also have obstacle avoidance systems and sensors in place, probably linked to cameras on the highway that can scan for obstacles kilometers ahead.

  4. joeyouno December 8, 2009 at 12:07 pm

    Ok lets say we are all traveling 55 mph and something is in the middle of the road and the first car moves not to hit the object but goes into the on comming lane to avoid it. what happens to the rest of the cars if there not paying attention.????

  5. Helman700 November 13, 2009 at 9:46 am

    Trains and specific to road travel, buses. The advantage here is similar to the argument for ethanol and hydrogen over electric cars. People want something that is exactly like they have now (in the sense that it doesn’t limit their current capabilities), just more efficient or better for the environment. If you link up to these trains on roadways already in place you still have the benefit of parking your car at home, and getting exactly where you need to go (usually work), and you still have all the flexibility to get off at an early exit for a coffee, or go to the post office after work before heading home – things you don’t have the ease of doing if your commute involves an actual train or a bus. It’s like those trams in Logan’s Run or something. It’s a system that still goes everywhere you want to. I can see the argument that it may help traffic jams (especially if we also move to smaller vehicles), but the fuel economy bit wouldn’t be to drastic – it would be as if 7/8 of us all got much better at regulating the accelerator, good, but not an end solution to fuel economy.

  6. Steven Luscher November 11, 2009 at 3:07 pm

    “The project, which is aimed at commuters traveling long distances, could drastically cut travel time, congestion, and fuel consumption.”

    Don’t actual trains already do this?

  7. carloslegarda November 11, 2009 at 10:24 am

    The point of the train being wirelessly controlled is to keep all the cars in the train travelling at the same speed and also stopping at the same speed. Tailgaiting is not an issue here. The events and buffers you are talking about only apply to individual drivers, not to trains. Imagine that the professional driver is controlling all eight cars in the train, this means that as soon as he steps on the brakes all 7 cars following him will also be activating their brakes without the need of the individual drivers behind him to step on the brakes physically.
    Traffic happens because people speed up at a different rate and slow down at a different rate from each other and then get frustrated and decide to change lanes often, causing more people on the adjoining lanes to have to slow down and then speed up again. If there were more “trains” with professional drivers then traffic would flow more smoothly.
    This concept would work with any size cars, whether small or large.

  8. haromaster November 11, 2009 at 12:16 am

    @perfectcirclecarpenter do you you really think there is enough detail about the system in the press release , to say that it won’t work?

  9. perfectcirclecarpenter November 10, 2009 at 5:22 pm

    I am familiar with LA and DC traffic, and in my opinion this will not work. The CAUSE of a daily traffic jam is excessive speed and diminishing space between vehicles. As the space between vehicles collapses, the speed of an event ripples faster toward the rear, causing stop and go traffic. A larger distance ensures a buffer zone enabling the event to be absorbed quickly as the line condenses and then expands again to resume normal speed.
    Low level events, such as merging with traffic, would be much more intense if traffic were condensed into trains. It is hard enough to wedge in when everyone is tailgating anyway. One might argue that the space between trains should increase in order to safely stop in an event… which translates into an average spacing greater than several cars spaced out normally.
    Having a train does not cause traffic to exit the highway faster, and that is usually the bottleneck that consistently causes traffic congestion.
    Where the train does work, is the fact that it is driven by a professional driver, who knows to drive an average slower speed, rather than jump up to the end of the line only to stop again. Many will abandon the train because they will believe that it is simply driving too slow. Ironically those are the dummies that cause traffic to become to condensed and jam up.
    We can make a considerably higher transit efficiency by simply reducing the size of cars. A half size single passenger trike car could double the use of a lane just like a motorcycle can triple it. And of course there’s always the dude riding a bicycle that seems to keep passing you by while you sit idled in traffic. (LA)

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