Volvo successfully completes first real world testing of SARTRE Concept

Across the world, the name 'Volvo' is synonymous with safety & innovation. So, it shouldn't come as a big surprise that Volvo has partnered for yet another innovative program called SARTRE. In case you are wondering, SARTRE stands for 'Safe Road Trains for the Environment'. It is led by Ricardo UK Ltd and comprises a collaboration between the following companies - 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.

The project aims to encourage a step change in personal transport usage by developing environmental road-trains called 'platoons'. Systems will be developed facilitating the safe adoption of road-trains on un-modified public highways with interaction with other traffic. A scheme will be developed whereby a lead vehicle with a professional driver will take responsibility for a platoon. Following vehicles will enter a semi-autonomous control mode that allows the driver of the following vehicle to do other things that would normally be prohibited for reasons of safety.

To put it simply, a platoon works like this - A 'Lead Vehicle' will be driven by a professional driver between two destinations. Other road-users would be free to join the lead vehicle as and when they need, thus forming a road-train. Once in the train,  the vehicles will follow the actions of the lead vehicle through a complex system of sensors and telematics. When a particular user reaches his/her destination, he/she can voluntarily disconnect from the train and drive independently.

If you are thinking that the concept is all fine and how is this going to work out in real life, worry no more as Volvo and its partners have just completed the first successful on-road testing of this concept at Hallered test track in Europe. The Volvo truck (in the picture) acted as the Lead Vehicle with a professional driver behind its wheel. The Volvo S60 sedan joined the truck to form a platoon. As the electronics took over the control of the S60, the car was autonomously following the actions of the truck ahead of it and the car’s driver was free to take his hands off the wheel and do things as he wished. In the picture, you can see him sipping a cup of coffee and glancing through a newspaper.

As per SARTRE members, this technology, when implemented, will set free time for the driver, improve safety and decrease the environmental load. Of course, this test is just the beginning and it’s going to be many years before the system is refined, perfected and can be termed fit for road usage. But, for the project members, that’s going to be a much easier job than convincing the transport authorities and common people to take up this technology without any fear or apprehension. If that happens, then this would be yet another classic example of the machines getting smarter than humans.
(Pics Courtesy: Volvo Cars)

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