Self-Driving Cars, ETA 10 Years

The announcement of the European's Union new SARTRE project has opened the way for the development of self driving cars, which could be used in what may very well become passenger cars road trains.

The idea is as wacky as it is applicable. In the near future (some ten years, Volvo estimates), several passenger cars will link up on motorways, pulling inches one behind the other on a single lane, single file road train. After the aligning maneuver has ended, the driver can take the hands off the wheel, foot of the gas and enjoy the ride, read a paper or write an essay...

The technology to be used for the SARTRE project will spawn the first batch of vehicles as soon as early 2011. They will be equipped with a navigation system and a transmitter/receiver to allow car-to-car communication.

Of course, there are a few challenges to be dealt with first. The most important one is the routes on which these future road trains will function.
The system needs a lead car in order to work properly. The first car to reach the respective road will become the lead car, but unfortunately for its driver, he will not be able to sit back and relax, as he will be the only one actually driving.

Behind the lead car, five to seven other vehicles follow. Any car can leave the line at any time, without disturbing the others. Of course, if you miss your exit, busy reading your e-mail and all, you may find yourself reaching a totally different destination.

What we can't yet understand is how do I, the driver, know where the lead car is going? Volvo says the lead car can be a taxi, a truck, a bus or whatever... If there are several road trains passing by, which one to join?

Well, that's what the ten years are for...

"The SARTRE project brings together a unique mix of technologies, skills and expertise from European industry and academia, with the aim of encouraging the development of safe and environmentally effective road trains," SARTRE project coordinator said in a release.

"By developing and implementing the technology at a vehicle level, SARTRE aims to realise the potentially very significant safety and environmental benefits of road trains without the need to invest in changes to road infrastructure."

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About the author: Daniel Patrascu
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Daniel loves writing (or so he claims), and he uses this skill to offer readers a "behind the scenes" look at the automotive industry. He also enjoys talking about space exploration and robots, because in his view the only way forward for humanity is away from this planet, in metal bodies.
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