updated 01:07 pm EDT, Tue May 29, 2012
Volvo, Euro government SARTRE project completes first public test
Swedish carmaker Volvo has successfully completed a 125-mile long highway drive in Spain that included three autonomous cars and one commercial truck. The vehicles were wirelessly linked and followed a lead vehicle driven by a professional driver. The first such public test was a success and Volvo believes it will let drivers relax during long commutes, partaking in activities such as working on notebook PCs or reading books.
The 'road train' was part of a European Commission research project dubbed SARTRE, or Safe Road Trains for the Environment, the BBC reported. The cars travelled at an average speed of 52mph and were spaced just 19 feet apart. Equipment included cameras, radar, and laser sensors to keep a safe distance and monitor the other vehicles.
Volvo believes the road train can be implemented into existing road systems fairly easily. The cars themselves won't need any ultra-expensive components, the carmaker's executives added. The wireless network installed between the cars is what sets them apart for other cars in showrooms, they also said.
The SARTRE project was in development since 2009, with about 6,000 test miles covered on closed tracks. Partners include Ricardo UK, Tecnalia Research & Innovation of Spain, Institut fur Kraftfahrzeuge Aachen (IKA) of Germany and the Technical Research Institute of Sweden.