'Road trains' get ready to roll  

Posted by Big Gav in , ,

The BBC has a report on European plants to improve car fuel economy by assembling "road trains" of cars on long distance trips - 'Road trains' get ready to roll.

Road trains that link vehicles together using wireless sensors could soon be on European roads. An EU-financed research project is looking at inexpensive ways of getting vehicles to travel in a 'platoon' on Europe's motorways.

Each road train could include up to eight separate vehicles - cars, buses and trucks will be mixed in each one. The EU hopes to cut fuel consumption, journey times and congestion by linking vehicles together.

Early work on the idea suggests that fuel consumption could be cut by 20% among those cars and trucks travelling behind the lead vehicle.

The lead vehicle would be handled by a professional driver who would monitor the status of the road train. Those in following vehicles could take their hands off the wheel, read a book or watch TV, while they travel along the motorway. Their vehicle would be controlled by the lead vehicle.

Funded under the European Commission's Framework 7 research plan, Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) is aimed at commuters in cars who travel long distances to work every day but will also look at ways to involve commercial vehicles.

Tom Robinson, project co-ordinator at engineering firm Ricardo, said the idea was to use off-the-shelf components to make it possible for cars, buses and trucks to join the road train. "The goal is to try and introduce a step change in transport methods," he said. "We're looking at what it would take to get platooning on public highways without making big changes to the public highways themselves," said Mr Robinson.

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