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'Driverless' Volvos hit streets in 'world first'

'Driverless' Volvos hit streets in 'world first'

Published: 30 May 2012 07:08 GMT+02:00
Updated: 30 May 2012 07:08 GMT+02:00

A convoy of self-driving cars has taken to a public motorway in Spain in normal traffic, a world first, according to Swedish car maker Volvo.

A professional driver took the lead of the convoy in a truck, and was followed by four self-driven Volvo vehicles: a second truck and three cars, Volvo said in a statement.

Vehicles in the road train were equipped with safety systems including cameras, radar and laser sensors, enabling them to monitor the lead vehicle and other vehicles on the road, Volvo said.

"By adding in wireless communication, the vehicles in the platoon mimic the lead vehicle using Ricardo autonomous control - accelerating, braking and turning in exactly the same way as the leader," it said.

The cars successfully drove for 200 kilometres on May 22 along a motorway outside Spain's northeastern city of Barcelona, a Volvo spokesman said.

Volvo Car Corporation's project manager, Linda Wahlstrom, was filmed driving one of the cars in the convoy as the system instructed her to lift her feet from the pedals and then remove her hands from the wheel.

As the car sped along the highway at 85 kilometres per hour, she leafed through a magazine.

"It is quite funny to see the passing vehicles. They are quite surprised seeing me not driving the car but reading a magazine," Wahlstrom said.

"We've learnt a whole lot during this period. People think that autonomous driving is science fiction, but the fact is that the technology is already here," she added in a statement.

"From the purely conceptual viewpoint, it works fine and the road train will be around in one form or another in the future."

It was the first-ever test drive of a self-driving road train among other road users, Volvo said, describing the trial as "highly successful".

"The project aims to deliver improved comfort for drivers, who can now spend their time doing other things while driving. They can work on their laptops, read a book or sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch," Volvo said.

"Naturally the project also aims to improve traffic safety, reduce environmental impact and, thanks to smooth speed control, cut the risk of traffic tailbacks."

The close distance between the cars also creates a slipstream that allows the vehicles to use less fuel, it says, with savings of up 20 percent possible depending on spacing and geometry.

The Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project is a partly European Commission-funded joint venture led by British engineering and technology developer Ricardo UK.

Other firms collaborating in the venture are Volvo, Idiada and Tecnalia Research & Innovation of Spain, Institut für Kraftfahrzeuge Aachen of Germany and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

08:57 May 30, 2012 by anonymous4
This is of interest. I'd like to see how this auto is perfected in time making available for the average driver.... and the price.
09:42 May 30, 2012 by ledax
How is this a first ?? Google has been doing this for years!
11:17 May 30, 2012 by Scepticion
Hmm, why not test this in Sweden?
13:49 May 30, 2012 by anonymous4
fedax,

I know that recently Google released the information that they have an auto similar to this one. A photo was shown. I do not care who releases this type of auto first. Volvo stating it has test driven a convoy of them, even using the draft from the other autos to save gas is interesting. I'd like to know more, including the price.
14:33 May 30, 2012 by Migga
Here`s a video of it on youtube;

/watch?v=-jQ1U9KZfWg&feature=related
16:21 May 30, 2012 by Mb 65
I wonder if it uses indicators, and tail gates. If it doesn't it be of no use on Swedish roads.
16:34 May 30, 2012 by HelmiVainikka
>Google has been doing this for years!

Not only Google, but VW as well.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stanley_%28vehicle%29
16:38 May 30, 2012 by hackie
#2,

Exactly what I wanted to say. They should do their research well before making a propaganda that it is the first in the world. Otherwise, they will be sued for making a false proclamation.
08:45 May 31, 2012 by isenhand
@ledax

It's a first to have a convoy of such vehicles. A single vehicles was done decades ago. They had a car drive 97% of the way across the US in 1997 by its self but I have never seen a group of automated cards on the road before.
12:43 May 31, 2012 by HelmiVainikka
@Isenhand:

I think the keyword is "public" road here.

Convoy tests etc. are conducted on proving grounds for years and anyone who ever saw a car race in his/her life knows about slipstream or as they call it here in Germany "wind shadow".

The only difference is that proving grounds tests are never made public, for obvious reasons.
12:38 June 1, 2012 by entry
Near future applications would most likely be for commercial trucking unless the unions can stop it.
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