Боломжийн санаа байна шүү. Урт аялалд цуваагаар явж байгаа машинууд зөвхөн хамгийн эхний машинаар удирдагдаж галт тэрэг шиг цуварч явж болох юм байна. Хойно нь дагаж явж буй машины жолоочид зурагт дүрсэлсэн шиг өөр юм хийгээд л сууж байх нь ээ. Дэлгэрэнгүй уншаарай. Letting drivers read a book, surf the net or possibly even have a snooze while behind the wheel may not sound like the best way to improve road safety. Yet that’s precisely the aim of an automatic driving system that has just been road-tested for the first time in Sweden.
By linking cars together into road trains or “platoons” to form semi-autonomous convoys under the control of a professional lead driver, the hope is that average road speeds can be reduced, improving fuel consumption and cutting congestion.
In a test performed late last month, Volvo, one of the partners of the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) Project, showed that a single car could join a platoon, be “enslaved” by a lead truck, and then exit safely. Discussions are now under way to carry out tests on public roads in Spain next year.
Platooning is not a new idea, says Tom Robinson of engineering firm Ricardo UK in Cambridge, the co-ordinator of the project; it is funded by €6.4 million of European Commission money. Early small-scale tests, such as the PATH project tested in San Diego in 1991, used induction loops in the road, he says. “We are looking at operating platoons on public highways without having to change the infrastructure”.
Your sensors are mine now
Some modern cars already come equipped with sensors and actuators to ensure that they don’t get too close to the car in front, or don’t drift out of their lane, says Robinson. SARTRE was set up to exploit these technologies, but to use them to bring vehicles closer together instead.
Using a wireless standard developed specifically for vehicle-to-vehicle communication – IEEE 802.11p – these systems would be enslaved by the lead vehicle, which would be either a truck or a coach. The car would be placed under the control of that lead vehicle, allowing the driver to take their hands off the wheel until they wish to leave the platoon.
To join a platoon, a car broadcasts its destination as it drives onto the freeway and a computer system tells the driver of any nearby platoons heading that way.
Each car is fitted with a navigation and communication system which measures the car’s speed and direction, constantly adjusting them to keep the car within a set distance of the vehicle in front. All commands to steer or change speed come from the driver of the lead vehicle and are carried out automatically.
Would you trust it?
Both drivers and authorities will need some convincing that the system is safe and able to cope with unforeseen road hazards, says Andrew Howard, head of road safety at the Automobile Association in Basingstoke, UK. But, he says, it makes a lot of sense. Transport authorities always want to find ways for vehicles to travel more closely together while remaining safe, because it means you can cram more cars on the roads without having to build more lanes.
“If vehicles are driving a lot closer together and there’s a lot less variation in vehicle speed, we believe it’s likely to reduce congestion,” says Robinson. And because the lead vehicle will have its speed limited, fuel consumption and carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced by up to 20 per cent, he says.