Volvo conducting its "road train" pilot program.

Volvo conducting its "road train" pilot program.

ROCKLEIGH, NJ - Volvo Car Corp. has been participating in the successful demonstration of what it calls a “road train” in Europe as part of the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project. The automaker said the project involves successfully, and safely, driving a test fleet that consists of a lead truck, with a driver, closely followed by autonomously driven cars.

"The aim is for the entire road train to be completed in autumn 2012. By then we will have four vehicles after one lead vehicle driving at 90 km/h (56 mph)," said Erik Coelingh, technical project manager at the Volvo Car Corporation.

Volvo said there are a number of advantages to the road train concept, also described as “platooning.” They include improved fuel savings due to the cars following each other closely and benefiting from reduced air drag and increased safety, as the lead vehicle is driven by a professional driver and the rest of the vehicles are autonomous and have faster reaction times than humans. Volvo said energy savings can be as high as 20%.

The SARTRE project also includes a study to identify needed infrastructure changes to make road trains feasible.