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Written by Austin Lynch

Several European companies are collaborating together to form the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project in hopes to automate the personal driving experience. After nearly two years of research and design, engineers at the SARTRE project have successfully completed tests on their automated personal driving system. The new technology allows cars to join an already traveling platoon of cars when traveling down a highway. The lead vehicle, driven by a trained professional, controls the speed, direction, and position of the following cars. Minimal equipment is necessary to implement this technology, including sensors and communication devices, and an additional benefit is that current roadways won’t need to be modified. Research has shown that the project will provide numerous benefits over individual drivers. 

After an early January 2011 test in Sweden, the platoon driving system performed well in the field. Due to the closeness of the cars in the platoon, the project will drastically decrease congestion on major highways. Eighty percent of automobile accidents are caused by human error, which is a number that would be significantly decreased if the driving process became automated. The new technology has also shown to conserve fuel and cut CO2 emissions by twenty percent due to the steadier flow of traffic and a decrease in aggressive drivers. In addition, consumers the technology would be able to complete other tasks in their car such as talk on the telephone, sleep, read the newspaper, or watch a movie. Even though the technology is ready today, it is expected to take up to ten years to implement due to difficulties in convincing legislation and the public that this technology is a safer alternative than current driving methods.

Seventy-six percent of Americans commute to work and on average this commute takes around twenty-five minutes. If this previously unusable time were devoted to working in the car, then productivity in the workplace would noticeably increase.  However, the three main priorities of the SARTRE project are safety, reduced environmental impact, and less congestion. The next step for the researchers is to test the project on Spain’s public highways to determine practical feasibility. As the technology of the SARTRE project continues in its second year of a three year development plan, American roadways can expect to see road trains in the near future. 



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