Self-Driving Car Convoy Completes Road Test
In the first public test of self-driving road-train cars, a convoy of cars has completed a 125-mile trip on a Spanish motorway, with only the lead car being driven by a human.
The convoy of cars drove amongst other human drivers on the Spanish motorway.
"Driving among other road-users is a great milestone in our project. It was truly thrilling," says Linda Wahlstroem, project manager for the Sartre project at Volvo Car Corporation.
Volvo claims that drivers ""can now work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch" while driving.
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The Sartre project, or Safe Road Trains for the Environment, is part of a European Commission research project.
The cars were connected to each other wirelessly, with a human driver in the lead car. The cars behind mimicked the human driver, much the way the cars on a train merely follow the path set by the conductor.
The cars drove at 52 miles per hour, and managed to drive as close as 19 feet from one another.
In order to achieve this, the cars were equipped with special cameras, lasers, monitors, and radars that allowed them to perceive other drivers and terrain.
"People think that autonomous driving is science fiction, but the fact is that the technology is already here. From the purely conceptual viewpoint, it works fine and road train will be around in one form or another in the future," said Ms Wahlstroem.
"Apart from the software developed as part of the project, it is really only the wireless network installed between the cars that set them apart from other cars available in showrooms today."
The project is unique in that the automated cars will still have to be part of a road train, and will need a lead driver to mimic. This is unlike other self-driving car projects that are looking for a truly autonomous experience.
Watch a video of how the road train works: