Following the recent trial of platooning – a convoy in which a number of vehicles automatically follow a leader – by Scania, the other Swedish truck maker Volvo has also participated in a platooning exercise on a public motorway with other road users.
The tests were part of the EU-funded SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project – a joint venture between seven European partners, including Volvo Trucks.
The exercise took place on a motorway outside Barcelona, Spain, with the ‘road train’ – consisting of both trucks and cars travelling among other road users – covering 200 km in one day.
In the SARTRE project, safety systems including cameras and radars are installed in the following vehicles to monitor the lead truck as well as other vehicles in the immediate vicinity. By adding wireless communication, all the vehicles in the platoon mimic the actions of the lead truck – accelerating, braking and turning in exactly the same way.
During the test in Spain, three cars and a truck followed the lead Volvo truck at 85 km/h with the distance between each vehicle said to have been just six metres!
“The truck behaved exactly as expected, and the following vehicles responded just as planned,” enthused Andreas Ekfjorden, project manager for Volvo Trucks in the SARTRE project and test driver of the lead truck in Spain. “It was great to be a part of this landmark event.”
The environmental impact of a road train is lower than that of conventional traffic, since the following vehicles are close behind the truck and each other and can therefore benefit from lower aerodynamic drag. It can also assist by improving traffic flow, enabling road capacity to be utilised more efficiently.
In the haulage industry – where fuel efficiency is a highly critical success factor – these findings raise questions on how the savings should be distributed. To this end, analysis of business models for platoons is an integral part of the SARTRE project.
“Haulage firms stand to gain from platoons, but more work needs to be done before it is possible to say what a working business model will look like,” said Frida Ramde, intelligent vehicle technologies manager at Volvo Trucks.
The three-year SARTRE project began in 2009. Following the test on public roads in Spain, the project is now entering a new phase with the focus on analysis of fuel economy improvements.