Sometime in 2010, Volvo Car Corporation came up with a cleaver and truly innovative idea that could allow for actual effortless driving. By using large road trains and driver aid assists, the Swedish car maker set out to create an autonomous motoring experience. Given the name Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE), the project has concluded and the results have Volvo and its partners very satisfied.
“The road train is the best of two worlds. You can enjoy all the multi-tasking possibilities of public transportation behind the wheel of your own car. It’s the perfect complement to the true pleasure of driving a Volvo yourself,” said Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Corporation. Since the start, Volvo has been the only automaker a part of the SARTRE project. In testing, a manually driven lead truck would be followed by one truck and three Volvo cars. Unlike the lead semi, the four followers carried no one and operated entirely autonomously all the way up to highway speeds. Technology such as cameras, radar, adaptive cruise control, lane control, blind spot monitoring and city safety all tie in to allow each vehicle to mimic the one in front.
During testing, Volvo worked heavily on the driver interface system. Centered in the display is information regarding the orientation inside the road train and options for joining and or leaving the team. The vehicle-t0-vehicle communication unit was also tweaked so that each ECU can understand each other even better. If each participating vehicle is right in line, drivers could see a benefit in efficiency and safety. Lower aerodynamic drag, improved traffic flow and more consistent speeds are all perks of the SARTRE project.
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