Volvo FH leads first platoon of trucks and cars 07 June 2012

For the first time ever, a Volvo truck has led a platoon – a convoy in which vehicles automatically follow a lead truck – on a public motorway among other road users.

The ground-breaking event happened last week outside Barcelona, Spain, and the road train covered 200km as part of the EU-funded SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project – a joint venture between seven European partners.

"The truck behaved exactly as expected, and the following vehicles responded just as planned," says Andreas Ekfjorden, project manager for Volvo Trucks at SARTRE and test driver of the lead truck. "It was great to be a part of this landmark event."

In the SARTRE project, existing vehicle safety systems – such as cameras and radar – are used by the following vehicles to monitor the lead truck, as well as other vehicles in their immediate vicinity.

By adding wireless communication, all the vehicles in the platoon mimic the lead truck – accelerating, braking and turning in exactly the same way as the lead vehicle.

In Spain last week, three Volvo cars and another Volvo truck followed the lead Volvo lorry, the distance between each vehicle being just six metres (20 feet) at 85kph (53mph).

The project mission states that the driver of the lead truck must be a professional driver and must be trained for the task. For the drivers of the following vehicles, the aim is to allow them to relax since they will be continuously supported and can even let go of the steering wheel.

The lead truck is supported by safety systems, such as Volvo Trucks' Lane Keeping Support, Driver Alert Support and an alcolock.

"The focus on driver environment is at the very core of Volvo Trucks' R&D work. Making the truck a safer workplace and supporting the driver is one of the most efficient ways for us to contribute to road safety," says Carl Johan Almqvist, traffic & product safety director, Volvo Trucks.

"It is also part of our ultimate goal: zero accidents with Volvo Trucks. Our participation in the SARTRE project is a natural extension of that philosophy."

The three-year SARTRE project has been underway since 2009.

Brian Tinham

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