Volvo road train

Date:30 September 2012 Tags:, ,

You enter the highway via an onramp, ease into a passing convoy and then… you sit back and relax, with no driver intervention needed, until it’s time to exit again. Welcome to the road train. And it’s here and now.

In terms of its implications, the road train that traversed 200 km of motorway in one day outside Barcelona in Spain recently represented a breakthrough in the concept of platooning. It was the first test drive of a road train consisting of both trucks and cars among other road users. At 85 km/h, three Volvo cars and another Volvo truck followed a lead Volvo truck with just 6 metres separating each.

It was all part of the EU-funded SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment). Following vehicles used existing vehicle safety systems – for instance, cameras and radar – to monitor the lead truck as well as other vehicles in their immediate vicinity. By adding wireless communication, the vehicles in the platoon “mimic” the lead truck. This allows accelerating, braking and turning in exactly the same way as the leader.

The SARTRE project, under way since 2009, is a joint venture between seven European partners, including Volvo Trucks. It has covered about 10 000 kilometres in total.

“(In the latest test) the truck behaved exactly as expected, and the following vehicles responded just as planned. It was great to be a part of this landmark event,” says Andreas Ekfjorden, Project Manager for Volvo Trucks in the SARTRE project and test driver of the lead truck in Spain.

The driver of the lead truck has a key role in the SARTRE project. The project mission states that the driver of the lead truck must be a professional and must be specifically trained for the task. For the drivers of the following vehicles, the aim is to allow them to relax since they will be continuously supported and can even let go of the steering wheel. For the professional driver of the lead truck, however, being at the helm of a vehicle platoon is a great responsibility, so he/she is supported by a number of safety systems such as Volvo Trucks’ Lane Keeping Support, Driver Alert Support and Alcolock.

The SARTRE project also has environmental goals. Running close to each other limits air drag and improves efficiency. It also optimises traffic flow, so allowing more efficient use of road capacity. This could add up to huge benefits for the haulage industry, in particular, but there are implications for all road-users.

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