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Safe Road Trains for the Environment; developing strategies and technologies to allow vehicle platoons to operate on normal public highways with significant environmental, safety and comfort benefits

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Platoon driving to help ease traffic

Driving in groups — or platoons — with a lead driver that controls movement will help render transport more sustainable, minimising both congestion and emissions.

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Grouping vehicles on highways together in road trains or platoons offers an innovative approach to minimising and harmonising traffic. The concept, which involves a professional lead driver in one vehicle with many vehicles following his or her instructions, aims to promote a better transport model. In this spirit, the EU-funded project SARTRE is developing strategies and technologies for vehicle platoons to operate on normal public highways. To achieve its aims, the project is investigating different approaches and demonstrating the technology with a platoon of two trucks and three cars. It is considering existing sensor and actuator technology coupled with a back-office assist to support platoon navigation. The project team envisions this to be part of a paid service where lead vehicle owners can profit, enabling clients to find and join a platoon when required as well. Work so far has revolved around developing a system that lets drivers find suitable platoons. The project team also looked at social considerations of platooning and conducted safety analyses on the system. It successfully tested the proposed system on public highways, demonstrating fuel savings and other potential advantages such as driver convenience and safety. Another key part of the project involved investigating the commercial viability of platooning for trucks and cars. With this in mind, SARTRE outlined the policies that would be affected by platooning of automated vehicles. Platoons could provide an interesting way to pay for the costs of highways. They could reduce greenhouse gas emissions and promote sustainable transport. If platooning takes off, it could mark a positive change in transport across Europe.

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