Volvo has completed phase one trials for the European Commission's Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project. Hands free driving is an old idea but tech firms, such as Idiada of Spain, are hoping the combined technologies from four companies will lead this notion into a new direction.
SARTRE works by using a professional driver to lead a train of vehicles. The cars following will use built in technologies to monitor the distance, speed, and direction of the vehicle in front. This leaves the driver to read, eat, listen to music, and have a coffee whilst letting the steering wheel and pedals move themselves. The end result is lower CO2 emissions, more comfort for long distance driving, a major reduction in the volume of road accidents, and of course time to enjoy the scenery.
Volvo is joined by other companies from Spain, Germany, Sweden and the UK in trying to make this technology safe, reliable, and profitable. According to Tom Robinson at the UK tech firm Ricardo, the successful test was a "major milestone" for SARTRE and means the system could be ready within three years, although it may take much longer for the 25 member states of the EU to pass laws allowing its use.
The tests conducted recently used just one lead vehicle and a single test car. However, in the future the aim is to increase the train length to over ten vehicles all working together but with an option to safely break away from the chain and return control over to the driver.
Image Credit: Sartre-project.eu