If you’re at least a little bit interested in fuel-saving driving techniques, or at least one time you had to drive carefully because your tank had been on its last liter of gas, then you may have probably heard of the fact that towing yourself in the tail of a truck reduces your car’s fuel consumption, by reducing the air friction. It’s not a myth, it has been practically demonstrated.
The European Union has an ongoing plan of designing an assisted towing they call “road trains”. A road train wants to be a wireless controlled system in which a leader truck, driven by a professional driver is the coordinator, and the cars behind it are the followers. The train is going to run on highways, and all the cars would be free to attach and detach the train at will.
The big advantage besides the 20% reduced fuel consumption is that the car drivers can take their hands off the wheel and do something else while being coordinated via a wireless system by the leading truck.
The system is called SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), and is aimed at commuters who travel long distances to work daily and also at commercial vehicles to some extent. It is funded under the European Commission’s Framework 7 research plan.
Tom Robinson, project co-ordinator at engineering firm Ricardo, said the idea was to use off-the-shelf components to make it possible for cars, buses and trucks to join the road train: “The goal is to try and introduce a step change in transport methods [...] We’re looking at what it would take to get platooning on public highways without making big changes to the public highways themselves,” said Mr Robinson.
The users would pay for the service, of course. The payment would probably be subscription-based and the cars who would want to join the virtual train would have to authenticate themselves via the same wireless system.
The project is still in a preliminary phase – trials will take place for three years on private tracks in Spain, and most probably, if successful, on Spanish, British, and Swiss public roads.
It’s a nice idea to help saving fuel, and it’s also relaxing, too. Count me in!