'Roadtrains' to transform driving

Motorway driving could be transformed within the next 10 years by cars that "drive themselves".

A "carpooling" roadtrain, consisting of six to eight vehicles, will be tested from next year by a UK company, as part of the EU project called Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment). Drivers in the roadtrain would be able to relax, read the paper and freely chat on mobile phones.

The vehicles in the train would be fitted with a navigation system and a transmitter/receiver unit that communicates with the lead vehicle, typically a bus, truck or taxi, which can effectively "do the motoring" for the following vehicles.

As drivers approach their destination they take over control of their vehicle and leave the convoy to the side, before continuing to their individual destination. The remaining vehicles close the gap and the train continues. The environmental impact of roadtrains would be lower as fuel consumption decreases due to less air drag, because the cars are closer together. 

The Sartre project will be conducted for three years starting in 2011 on test tracks in the UK, Spain and Sweden and eventually on public roads in Spain.

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