A road train uses camera, laser and radar sensors to judge the speed of the car in front and maintain a safe gap – and applies the brakes and steering automatically.
Lead vehicles (possibly a bus or truck with professional driver) set a pace on motorways that other cars can communicate with and connect to, leaving the speed and steering to the lead vehicle. Small fees are likely to be paid to the lead vehicle, said Volvo’s Thomas Broberg.
“Road trains allow a driver to use their time better, drive safer, reduce congestion and improve the environment,” he said. “You’re always following another car, so why not let the driving be done by someone else?”
Broberg believes road trains are a step towards fully autonomous cars, technology that Volvo is also researching. “I believe they will happen,” he said. “From a technological point of view it’s challenging, but possible.”
Broberg said trials had already successfully got two cars attached to a road train and revealed that Volvo will be conducting field trials in Sweden by the end of the year.
Volvo has also set a target of no one dying in its cars by 2020. Broberg says if Volvo could understand how people thought in the split seconds before a crash, it could take potential accident situations from the critical to the non-critical.