by Matt Bonner
In today’s world, the twin imperatives of improving traffic flow while reducing the fuel consumption of vehicles has spawned a wide variety of initiatives. Among the most promising of these plans is the car train technology, which promises to radically improve the traffic capacity of roads while also improving the fuel economy of the involved cars.
What is Car Train Technology?
Car train technology is a system by which a single vehicle acts as the guide, using electronic communications to direct a group or “train” of cars behind it on the road. These cars automatically maintain their position with the guide vehicle, and thus do not demand active control by their occupants. Properly equipped cars can easily join or leave a car train, making it a flexible system for commuters or freight trucks.
The Future of Car Train Technology and Project SARTRE
With the ability to have all cars in the train wirelessly communicate with each other, the future of car train technology is extremely bright. In addition to maintaining their spacing between other cars in the train, the car train components will automatically match the speed of the controlling vehicle. Thus, a single professional driver can ensure that the entire train proceeds in a safe manner. In addition, the added precision of the car train will drastically reduce the amount of fuel consumed by its component cars, as well as the wear and tear on their brakes and drive trains.
Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) is the European project that is helping to develop road train technology. With the collaboration of a number of European nations and companies, SARTRE is developing the methodologies and technology for the future wide-scale incorporation of road train technology on unmodified highways. Currently, the project is on track for completion in 2012 and has demonstrated the ability for road trains to coexist with manually driven vehicles on public highways.
The Future Implications of Road Train Technology
Since this system does not require the modification of roads or other infrastructure, once perfected there is no obstacle to the widespread adoption of road train technology. Thus, a widely adopted road train system can produce a number of benefits:
• Road trains will allow the drivers of component cars to work or rest, rather than forcing them to concentrate on driving.
• Road train convoys will reduce vehicle congestion while increasing the average speed of the traffic.
• Road trains could guide a large number of unmanned cargo vehicles slaved to the controlling vehicle, reducing the cost of transporting cargo.
• The increase in fuel economy by using automatic controls can lower national and personal fuel costs, while also reducing vehicle related pollution.
The development of road trains and their associated technology stands to open the door to a radically changed world of private and commercial travel alike. The continued progress of SARTRE will in fact reap great rewards for its backers and the public alike in terms of improved transportation options.
(Image source: Autoblog)
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