Sydney: Spanish drivers witnessed the first real-world test of “platooning” technology, which places a vehicle at the head of a convoy, with a string of automatically driving cars trailing behind it.
Vehicles in the trial used their electronics to automatically keep a six-metre distance from the one in front while the convoy travelled for about 200 kilometres along a freeway just outside Barcelona at a steady speed of 85km/h.
The trailing vehicles are able to speed up, slow down and turn in sequence with the leader, allowing drivers of the cars to “spend their time doing other things while driving, like work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch”, Sydney Morning Herald quoted Volvo as saying.
The ‘follow-the-leader’ project is part of a three-year trial to see whether the technology has any benefits on crowded, rush-hour roads, where drivers are typically stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
“People think that autonomous driving is science fiction, but the fact is that the technology is already here,” Volvo-based Safe Road Trains for the Environment project manager Linda Wahlstrom said.
The project also aims to improve traffic safety, cut fuel use and - because it controls speed - cut down on the risk of increasing congestion.
The project, was started in 2009 and expected to be completed this year, has already covered more than 10,000 kilometres of trials.
While this phase of the trial has focused on how the technology works on real roads rather than just the test track, the next phase is expected to focus on the project’s fuel-saving benefits.