GPS-based road train – Click above for gallery

It goes by the name "Sartre," but it has nothing to do with existentialism and just a little bit to do with exits. The Safe Road Trains for the Environment program is a three-year European study centering on the creation of 'platoons' of drivers behind a lead vehicle on the highway. It involves wiring cars to speak to each other, and to a lead vehicle – the platoon commander – behind which up to eight cars could follow in automated bliss.

One of the keys to the study is finding a way to make travel more efficient and lower gas usage without spending the treasury on putting sensors in roads, or creating an entirely new standard of equipment. Also, using a lead vehicle that could take control of the vehicles behind – cars, trucks or buses – makes Sartre much more flexible since it can travel on any highway.

So say you need to get to the Alhambra in a hurry. You see a Sartre platoon on the highway ahead, and if there's room, you signal your wish to join. The lead vehicle takes control of your car, and it is pulled into the formation, leaving you free to do whatever you want to do. When you want to get out, you signal your intention, a gap is made and you get control of your car again. The study will be conducted on test tracks in Spain, Sweden and the UK, with additional trials on public road in Spain. Gentlemen, mount up... Hat tip to Ben!

  • The driver's sat-nav indicates that there is a road train ahead that is following some of his/her planned journey.
  • The driver approaches the road train, which is controlled by a professional driver at the front, and indicates that he/she wishes to join.
  • The road train takes control of the extra car, pulling it close to cut air drag and save about 20% in fuel consumption.
  • The drivers can relax until they wish to leave the road train, at which point they signal their intention to the driver at the front.
  • A bigger gap will be made to allow the car to leave and control of the vehicle will be returned to that driver.

[Source: BBC]

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