Automotive

SARTRE autonomous road train project completed

Autonomous driving would allow drivers to relax on trips (Image: Volvo)
Autonomous driving would allow drivers to relax on trips (Image: Volvo)
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SARTRE road train (Image: Volvo)
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SARTRE road train (Image: Volvo)
How road trains work (Image: Volvo)
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How road trains work (Image: Volvo)
SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
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SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
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SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
SARTRE road train (Image: Volvo)
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SARTRE road train (Image: Volvo)
SARTRE road train (Image: Volvo)
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SARTRE road train (Image: Volvo)
How road trains work (Image: Volvo)
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How road trains work (Image: Volvo)
SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
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SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
Autonomous driving allows drivers to relax on trips (Image: Volvo)
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Autonomous driving allows drivers to relax on trips (Image: Volvo)
Driver with SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
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Driver with SARTRE interface (Image: Volvo)
How road trains work (Image: Volvo)
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How road trains work (Image: Volvo)
Autonomous driving would allow drivers to relax on trips (Image: Volvo)
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Autonomous driving would allow drivers to relax on trips (Image: Volvo)

The SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project that first hit the road in 2011 before conducting its first public road test earlier this year has now been completed. As well as finding that semi-autonomous “follow the leader” road train technology is mature enough for practical applications in the near future, the participating partners in the project have concluded that it could be integrated on conventional highways and operate in a mixed environment with existing road users.

The SARTRE project is a sort of halfway point between conventional vehicles and autonomous vehicles. Instead of taking the human factor out of the equation altogether, similarly equipped vehicles communicate with each other to form road trains behind a lead vehicle operated by a professional driver.

Road tests saw a manually driven lead truck followed by one truck and three Volvo cars, a S60, V60 and XC60, which were driven autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h (56 mph), with distances between the vehicles often no greater than four meters (13 ft).

"The basic principle is that the following vehicles repeat the motion of the lead vehicle," says Erik Coelingh, Product Attribute Manager, Driver Assistance at Volvo Car Corporation. "To achieve this we have extended the camera, radar and laser technology used in present safety and support systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control, City Safety, Lane Keeping Aid, Blind Sport Information System and Park Assist Pilot."

Volvo says that it could have a system capable of operating on conventional highways with mixed traffic within ten years and that the main obstacles are legislative. But if local and national governments can be convinced to find a way to accommodate autonomous cars, the day when a cross-country road trip becomes an excuse to catch up on some reading may not be that far off.

“The road train is the best of two worlds," added Coelingh. "You can enjoy all the multi-tasking possibilities of public transportation behind the wheel of your own car."

Part-funded by the European Commission, SARTRE is a joint venture of seven European partners including Ricardo UK Ltd, Applus Idiada, Robotiker, Institut für Kraftfahrzeuge Aachen (IKA), SP Technical Research Institute, Volvo Technology and Volvo Car Corporation. Volvo is the only car manufacturer in the project.

The SARTRE project's road train technology is demonstrated in the video below.

Source: SARTRE

13 comments
jaqen
during my 75 km commute, i often come across some big trucks i know are heading to the same area as me, id love to be able to lock onto one, and then lean back and read a book instead. I can imagine teaching my gps to alert me, if it diverts from my chosen route, if i managed to choose one that goes astray :-) else i could imaging cars broadcasting their destination via bluetooth or something similar, so you can find people heading the same way and then take turns being in front. with 4 m between the cars, I can imagine that you'll also save a bit on fuel this way.
Pikeman
It is important not to get behind somebody with better brakes.
Jeff King
I don't really see this happening in the real world, especially in the US. I'm wondering how lane changes would be handled if the lead vehicle came across someone doing way under the limit, farm machinery, car about to break down, lane closure due to an obstruction or construction. Would the entire train change lanes too? What about other cars in the lanes next to the train? Speaking of the lead vehicle, I want to hear more about the "professional driver" leading the pack. Is this term being used to separate truck drivers from commuters in cars? Or is this someone who's job it is to lead other cars down the road? Does this mean that he runs on a schedule, like a bus or train? Who pays for him to do this? How do I get that job!
yinfu99
I have to wonder however, with this follow option, if the vehicle you follow suddenly turns, fall asleep, swerves off the road, etc, or even if they cut back into a lane when there is a space for them, but not a space for you. I think a software program that integrates a "follow the road" technique with 'safety bumper" zones to keep spacing consistent would be more practical and safe.
Ct
In a perfect world this would be great, but locking onto a total stangers car with blind faith they have properly maintianed it is just crazy. I can foresee a new industry poping up to rival trains for passenger travel as companies set up routes between cities and provide an escort vehicle for you to lock on to for a fee. You can even work out connections with other escort vehciles on a in car itineray app. This could ensuring a well maintianed vehicle and set travel times with no baggage fees- ha ha!
Snatr
Nice idea in theory, but kinda scary. I would only hope that the system could be overridden without having to deactivate it. I'm thinking about it's potential at traffic lights though.
Gregg Eshelman
What if something happens in front of the lead car too close for it to stop? I'd bet at least the first three cars in the train go crunch even if the second car tells all the others to emergency brake at the same time.
Slowburn
If the professional driver can control the last car independently he could use it as a blocker vehicle to clear the lane for the rest of the train to change lanes. The problem of traffic lights is an erroneous assumption that the trains would run on routes that involve traffic lights instead of highways. Paying for the service of the professional driver in the lead vehicle is simply a matter of paying the fare electronically (I am sure that most of the online money transfer companies would be ecstatic for the business.) The lead vehicle must be specially configured whether it is a regularly scheduled commuter lead or a trucker trying to make a little extra profit. I would also like to be able to configure for a two car convoy capable of being driven with the second car unoccupied.
Slowburn
re; Gregg Eshelman Unpleasant things happen, but the risk is no worse than if you are in a bus or driving your own car.
Iosif Olimpiu
It's wonderful! I'm thimking that the driver can introduce the destination and even if he is in a road train and the car ahead him will blink to change direction off the route the car will keep it's traiectory...