Thursday, January 20, 2011

Follow the leader

We've all done it when stuck in traffic: read a newspaper, checked our text messages, fiddled around with the center console. But what if that traffic was going 50 miles per hour? Sure, there are still some people out there foolish enough to try these things at high speed, but most of us have had enough close calls to know better.

The good folk from the EU-funded Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) Project aren't content with letting passengers have all the fun. They want equal rights for drivers, and are making it happen with what they call vehicle platooning technology.

The idea is simple: when there are a series of vehicles traveling behind one another, only the lead one needs to do the driving. Given the right conditions, anyone behind that vehicle could theoretically let their car follow suit.

'Theoretically' being the key word until just a few days ago, when the first successful demonstration of this technology took place at the Volvo Proving Ground in Sweden. It was also the first time their systems were tested on the road, which should provide some comfort to prospective hands-free drivers.

The SARTRE team, which has representatives from seven companies and four countries, aims to complete this project within two years. However, it might take a little longer for regulators to warm to the idea, regardless of the projected 20% reduction in CO2 emissions that could result from less erratic driving, and less erratic driving, which could result in fewer accidents.

As you can see from this video, it's all calculated very precisely to minimize the possibility of accidents, but there's not much you can do about lane jumpers who drive like this:

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