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Self-driving car convoy hits Spanish motorway
A convoy of self-driven cars has completed a 125-mile journey on a Spanish motorway, marking the first test of such technology on the public road.
Self-drive vehicles have been tested before – such as the autonomous Toyota Prius modified by Internet giant Google – but a train of cars, all controlled by computers, has never been tested. Until now.
The convoy – dubbed SARTRE, or Safe Road Trains for the Environment – has been developed by Swedish manufacturer Volvo and uses three cars and one lorry (a Volvo XC60, V60, S60 and the truck) automatically driving behind a lead vehicle.
The cars are equipped with cameras, radar and laser sensors that monitor the vehicle ahead, as well as automobiles in their immediate vicinity. The system uses wireless communication to relay acceleration, braking and steering inputs from the lead vehicle to other cars in the chain.
Project manager for SARTRE at Volvo Car Corporation, Linda Wahlstroem: “Driving among other road-users is a great milestone in our project. It was truly thrilling.
“People think that autonomous driving is science fiction, but the fact is that the technology is already here. From the purely conceptual viewpoint, it works fine and road train will be around in one form or another in the future.”
The test vehicles drove at 85kph (around 53mph) just 6m from each other and the Swedish firm is confident the technology will be widely available in the near future.
According to Volvo, the new system heralds the introduction of relaxed driving as motorists “can now work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch while in their vehicles.”
The eventual aim of the project is to have many ‘slaved’ cars leading autonomously controlled vehicles travelling at high velocity along designated stretches of motorway.
The three-year SARTRE project began in 2009, in which time the vehicles have racked up 10,000km (around 6,200 miles) in testing.
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