Hello,

We noticed you're browsing in private or incognito mode.

To continue reading this article, please exit incognito mode or log in.

Not an Insider? Subscribe now for unlimited access to online articles.

Kevin Bullis

A View from Kevin Bullis

European Researchers Plan Automated "Road Trains"

A system for virtually linking cars could cut fuel consumption by 20 percent, and allow for hands-free driving.

  • November 10, 2009

A project funded by the European Commission is developing “road trains”–a potentially inexpensive way to automate vehicles, the BBC says.

If cars were automated and networked–communicating with each other to coordinate their speeds, to allow passing and merging, and to warn each other of sudden stops–it might be possible for more cars to use the same roads while at the same time reducing traffic jams, saving fuel now wasted while idling on the freeway. Automated vehicles could also save gas by driving steadily–avoiding gas guzzling bursts of acceleration–or by allowing vehicles to follow so close that they reduce overall wind drag.

But proposals for how to build such a system often rely on the installation of sensors and communication hubs all along roads, which could be expensive. The EU-financed project takes a different approach that wouldn’t require that roadways be instrumented.

In the proposed system, a professional driver would operate a lead vehicle. Other drivers could elect to pull up behind that vehicle and virtually link to it, establishing a wireless connection. That vehicle would automatically follow along behind the lead vehicle, freeing its driver to eat breakfast or read a book or whatever. Several other cars could also line up behind the lead vehicle, forming a sort-of train. When you approach your destination, you’d leave the train, resuming control of the car. A BBC infographic at the link above, and this illustration help explain it. Apparently, reducing wind drag could cut fuel consumption by 20 percent.

I wonder if this approach could help ease people’s concern about handing over controls to their vehicle. Will having a professional driver at the lead make the system seem safer? Or will adding the human element make it more dangerous?

AI is here. Will you lead or follow?
Join us at EmTech Digital 2019.

Register now
More from Sustainable Energy

Can we sustainably provide food, water, and energy to a growing population during a climate crisis?

Want more award-winning journalism? Subscribe to Insider Plus.
  • Insider Plus {! insider.prices.plus !}*

    {! insider.display.menuOptionsLabel !}

    Everything included in Insider Basic, plus the digital magazine, extensive archive, ad-free web experience, and discounts to partner offerings and MIT Technology Review events.

    See details+

    Print + Digital Magazine (6 bi-monthly issues)

    Unlimited online access including all articles, multimedia, and more

    The Download newsletter with top tech stories delivered daily to your inbox

    Technology Review PDF magazine archive, including articles, images, and covers dating back to 1899

    10% Discount to MIT Technology Review events and MIT Press

    Ad-free website experience

/3
You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for unlimited online access. This is your last free article this month. for unlimited online access. You've read all your free articles this month. for unlimited online access. You've read of three free articles this month. for more, or for unlimited online access. for two more free articles, or for unlimited online access.