Driverless cars take a step forward
That's the promise of vehicle technology specialist Ricardo, one of the partners in the EU-financed Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) programme.
SARTRE recently carried out its first non-simulator tests at Volvo's proving ground in Sweden.
A convoy of drone cars followed a lead vehicle driven by a professional driver, and each adjusted their speed and direction to maintain a set gap from each other.
The idea is that computer-controlled platoons of cars could make more efficient and safer use of motorways by travelling close together.
The SARTRE programme estimates that accidents could be reduced by 80% and that fuel consumption and emissions would both improve by 20%.
From a technical point of view, platoon vehicles are relatively simple and have also been trialled in California and with trucks by Mercedes-Benz.
As Ricardo acknowledges, the biggest challenge could come from public acceptance of the technology and difficulties with legislators. Liability and insurance issues would also present a hurdle to technologies such as these.
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