Seeing a road train made up of a truck and three Volvos isn't normally something most drivers would get excited about, except when they are all completely autonomous.
Volvo has successfully completed its first public test of its SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project along a motorway outside Barcelona in Spain.
The road train consists of a lead vehicle driven by a professional driver being followed by a number of vehicles that employ Volvo Car Corporation's and Volvo Technology's already existing safety systems such as cameras, radar and laser sensors to monitor the lead vehicle as well as other vehicles in the immediate area. Via added wireless communication the 'platoon' vehicles 'mimic' the lead vehicle, autonomously accelerating, braking and turning in exactly the same way as the lead car.
Volvo says the project aims to deliver improved comfort for drivers, improved traffic safety, a reduced environmental impact and a reduction in the risk of traffic bank-ups as a result of the smooth automated speed control.
"This is a very significant milestone in the development of safe road train technology," said SARTRE project director Tom Robinson. "For the very first time we have been able to demonstrate a convoy of autonomously driven vehicles following a lead vehicle with its professional driver, in a mixed traffic environment on a European motorway."
The SARTRE project, that began in 2009 and has covered about 10,000km, will move into its next phase focusing on analysis of fuel consumption following the successful Spanish test.