When will cars drive themselves?

22nd March 2010

Asked by: Anonymous

To anyone but petrol-heads, motorway driving is largely boring and monotonous. Wouldn’t it be better to let someone else take the strain while you read a book or watch a movie?

This vision of the future may become a reality by 2020 if a new research programme from the EU comes to fruition. It’s hoped that Sartre, or Safe Road Trains for the Environment, will come up with a method to link vehicles so they can travel in a road train or ‘platoon’.  Because it would be too expensive to wire up motorways with sensors, this will mean fitting vehicles with a navigation system and a transmitter/receiver unit. The unit will communicate with a lead vehicle controlled by a professional driver who’s in control of the road train. Drivers may have to pay for the service, but estimated fuel savings could be as high as 20 per cent thanks to reduced drag on the trailling cars.

Also, because the vehicles travel in such close formation, Sartre should help reduce traffic congestion. Initial tests of Sartre system are set to take place on test tracks in the UK, Spain and Sweden as early as next year. There are also plans to test the new system on Spain’s public roads.

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