The SARTRE Project – Safe Road Trains for the Environment (acronym), funded by the European Commission, aims to develop and implement a system that will allow ad-hoc formation of so-called vehicle platoons on highways in the European Union. It is a chain of cars moving very close to each other and are not guided by drivers, but a “locomotive”, actually a bigger vehicle. Therefore, these vehicle platoons are both safe and environmentally friendly, since reducing carbon emissions and decrease consumption of fossil fuels by cars near each other at high speeds to reduce friction with the air.
The SARTRE Project is led by Ricardo UK Ltd in colaboration with Idiada and Robotiker-Tecnalia of Spain, Institut for Kraftfahrwesen Aachen (IKA) of Germany, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Volvo Car Corporation and Volvo Technology of Sweden.
In almost all countries of the civilized world, running at a too small distance from the car in front is punished harshly because of the risks involved. The only place where this is agreed is the circuit, motorsport also being the creator of the technique of “drafting”. This technique involves running behind a competitor at high speeds to reduce friction with the air. The vehicle will be back as a reserve power to overcome, but the phenomenon it is beneficial to the vehicle, which will move with less effort, not being forced to confront the air mass.
Although it will not run at high speeds and will not be placed in millimeters or centimeters away, up to eight vehicles will form the so called vehicle platoons on the highway to reduce fuel consumption, CO2 emissions, the fatigue suffered by drivers and last but not least, accidents that occur because of fatigue or distraction.
How it Works
The system works without wires or cables, using GPS integrated in the vehicle and communicate wirelessly with other vehicles in the column. This column will always be led by a professional driver, be it truck driver, bus driver or a driver simply a higher level of skill behind it. GPS units for vehicles will be involved in the platoon will show drivers where the actual column, after which they will use on-board systems to control vehicle. Clearly, SARTRE system will involve the use of a central control unit and the vehicle will require an adaptive cruise control system and electrical and electronic steering.
Once at cruising speed, the driver will connect the train car and enter the “auto train” dedicated. The first column will dictate vehicle movements will be followed with precision by other vehicles, and this will be achieved through a dedicated software that will take control of the vehicle only during the time it is entered in column SARTRE. The system will only use GPS units and integrated vehicle control only cars equipped with electronic throttle and the ESP – because these vehicles allow for deceleration and acceleration of the electronic car without driver’s intervention and can be adapted for SARTRE use without additional large costs.
Clearly, the function of the SARTRE system is to allow the driver to do something else while running his car on the highway at speed. Whether talking on the phone, watching a movie on the laptop, eating quietly, read a book or newspaper, it makes their nails or shave, the driver does not need to worry about handling or steering wheel the vehicle controls in general. Of course, consumption of alcohol, prohibited substances and sleep are further activities that will not take place even while driving with the SARTRE system operational.
Thanks that does not use any element of infrastructure than the actual running surface, the system can operate in any EU country… possessing viable highways.
Advantages and Disadvantages
The first advantage is to reduce drastically the level of driver fatigue. Since we do not have to concentrate on the road and can read or eat, the driver will reach its destination or will continue its path will be more relaxed and refreshed both physically and psychologically speaking. The second advantage is economic, since all vehicles in the convoy will have lower fuel consumption and will run continuously – without sudden accelerations and decelerations or repeated – an element that will lead to lower fuel consumption. The risk that one of eight drivers to cause an accident and he falls, the only human element in the whole “equation” that can go wrong SARTRE is the first car driver, but it is bound by stricter rules than drivers using vehicles that can be led only to B category.
The main disadvantage of the system is the existence of the human factor. Although it may take an informed decision in complex situations, which may not always be best managed by an electronic system (designed and programmed all of the people), the first driver in the vehicle platoon can make a fatal mistake for him and seven behind him. Another disadvantage is that not all vehicles will be economic at the same speed as the system will favor vehicles that have a cruising speed, say 90 km/h. Sure, there will be fuel economy, no doubt, but some would be as economical to run with 100, 110 or even 120 km/h while the last step of the transmission ratio gearbox would allow low speed at this speed. Another problem is that the system can only be used on highways, there remains the risk of accidents on other roads.