Volvo has recently tested new technology that will allow for cars to automatically sync up with a lead driver, and be part of an semi-autonomous convoy. Titled “road train technology,” it’s designed to allow drivers to sync up with a lead vehicle, and allow their car to take over for the most part. The tests were conducted on Volvo’s test tracks in Sweden, and the company (and testers) have officially labeled the first real world tests as a success.
Volvo believes that the road train technology could promote fuel usage, reduce the amount of congestion on roads, and promote safety for some drivers. For a tired driver, being able to find a semi-autonomous convoy to take over the trip for a certain amount of miles could be the difference between a successful arrival at their destination, and a catastrophic accident.
The test was conducted by Volvo at their test track, but it was in part conducted by the European Commission, as part of a research project called Sartre — Safe Road Trains for the Environment. The test was proven a success after the test car was able to get behind the lead car, and then hand over control of the convoy to the lead car ahead of it. In the video (which you can watch here), we see the driver of the car completely remove their hands from the steering wheel, and then even begin reading a newspaper and drinking their coffee.
In the lead vehicle, the convoy is told to speed up, slow down, or steer when necessary. Sensors in all vehicles would make sure that they keep a safe distance from one another while in the convoy, as well as other cars on the road. The idea is to be able to string together more cars than just one, and have the same results. The results of the first real world test mean that the designers believe that the technology behind Sartre could be used in the wild in just a few years.