The idea of self-driving vehicles has been getting increasing attention on several fronts. Google's self-driving car is perhaps the most widely publicized example, but other options are under development at various stages. Volvo is working on a different approach, with cars that are not completely autonomous, but that can safely follow others in a close formation known as a road train.
In a road train, vehicles equipped with wireless connectivity and control equipment will be able to follow other vehicles in close formation, with a lead vehicle being driven by a human driver. Computers and sensors will monitor the convoy, and automatically follow the lead vehicle with safe clearances. Once a vehicle is part of a road train, the driver can can switch their attention to other things.
Road trains would offer a number of benefits that are beneficial to the environment as well as to drivers.
Fuel mileage will improve, as vehicles stay at the same speed (acceleration reduces efficiency). Cars can safely drive more closely to one another, and will benefit from lowered wind resistance. With groups of cars moving at predictable speeds, congestion will improve. And the stress of the daily commute will be alleviated, with time in the car to read or relax.
The Volvo system has been undergoing testing for the past several years. A video presentation from Volvo shows vehicles operating on a test track to demonstrate the workings of this system.
Hat tip to: Jaymi Heimbuch
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