Volvo tests 'driverless' cars on the road

Volvo tests 'driverless' cars on the road

May 31, 2012

Vehicle technology reached a new milestone last week when an automatically driven road train comprising a Volvo XC60, V60, S60 and a truck was tested down 200 kilometres of Spanish motorway behind a professionally driven lead vehicle. 

SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) - a project in partnership with Volvo Technology and Volvo Car Corporation - creates road trains by using a combination of existing Volvo safety systems such as cameras, radar and laser sensors in conjunction with wireless communication.  These systems allow vehicles to effectively "mimic" a lead vehicle's movements and behaviours; meaning that the train accelerates, brakes and steers to match the leader.

"We've focused really hard on changing as little as possible in existing systems," said Linda Wahlstrom, project manager for the SARTRE project at Volvo Car Corporation.  "It is really only the wireless network that sets them apart from cars in showrooms today."

The three-year SARTRE project began in 2009 with the aim of improving safety, congestion and environmental issues; as well as hoping to improve driver comfort over long distances.  Early indications suggest fuel consumption can be reduced by around 20% over long distances due to safe slip-streaming; and tests have shown that drivers quickly adapt to sitting in a car driven by technology alone. 

Wahlstrom continues, "People think autonomous driving is science fiction, but the technology is already here.  The road train will be around in one form or another in the future."

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