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Road trains could be the future of motorway driving

posted 28 Jan 2011, 05:18 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 28 Jan 2011, 05:21 ]
HALLERED AND STOCKHOLM, SWEDENWith the recent successful test of road-train technology in Sweden, developers say convoys of cars on Europe's motorways could become a reality within ten years provided car manufacturers can agree on a common standard. Stuart McDill reports on the technology that would enable drivers to read or take a nap while sitting in a traffic jam or cruising down the motorway.
HALLERED AND STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN - It might not look like a radical event but this is the first successful demonstration of a road train.

The car is following the truck autonomously and in theory any number of others vehicles could do the same.

The road train is a convoy of vehicles equipped with wireless technology that mimics the professional driver in the lead vehicle.

Erik Coelingh is the project leader at Volvo.


"The lead vehicle is driven by a human driver and we're monitoring how the driver is driving so we're looking at steering-wheel angle and speed and acceleration and those signals are measured and communicated to the cars behind"

Each car adjusts its speed, direction and distance according to the car in front.

The idea improves road safety, with human error causing at least 80 per cent of all road accidents and it cuts fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 20 per cent.

It is also frees up time for the driver to do other things and relieve traffic congestion - although letting go of the wheel takes some getting used to.


"This is unusual I would say. It's very unusual but on the other hand the fact that the car just follows the other car in front is not so unusual because it's just like an adapted cruise control. But the fact that you don't have to look at the road and that this car can steer automatically that's -- I'm not comfortable yet."

Daniel Frodin, the editor of Swedish car magazine Technology World, says road trains are a great idea but getting car manufacturers to agree on a standard will not be easy.


"European car manufacturers have great pride and of course they want to make their own system and maybe have their own special way of putting it so that they can take advantage of that in advertising and for their brand so it's really important that they all get together on one standard that they can really agree on."

So don't expect to be reading the paper as you head up the motorway anytime soon.

Stuart McDill, Reuters