The aim of the project was to encourage a step change in personal transport usage through the development of environmental road trains (platoons). Systems will be developed that will facilitate safe adoption of road trains on unmodified public highways with full interaction with non-platoon vehicles. These systems will be developed as prototype systems. A scheme will be developed whereby a lead vehicle (initially a commercial truck) with a professional driver will take responsibility for a platoon. Following vehicles will enter a semi-autonomous control mode that allows the driver of the following vehicle to undertake other activities that would normally be prohibited for safety reasons: for example, operating a phone.
The objective of SARTRE was to develop strategies and technologies that allow vehicle platoons to operate on normal public highways with significant environmental, safety and comfort benefits.
The programme addressed the 3 cornerstones of transportation issues: environment, safety and congestion, while at the same time encouraging driver acceptance through the increased driver comfort. The programme addressed a concept that as a whole would facilitate a step change in the use of private transportation. The interaction of platoons with other non-platoon users was a critical facet of the programme. The programme had a significant research element looking into this aspect and providing clear strategies that could be implemented in the prototype system.
Another unique programme element was the interaction between lead and following vehicles and how this could lead to a new business model for road use. For example, following vehicles may be charged to join a platoon. The introduction of platooning on normal roads with private vehicles would achieve environmental benefits (with an estimated 20% emissions reduction), safety benefits (reduction of accidents caused by driver action) and a congestion reduction (smoother traffic flow with potential consequential increase in throughput).
The results from the SARTRE project can be summarized into three different categories of potential advantages - fuel consumption, commercial viability, infrastructure and environment.
Firstly, with respect to fuel consumption the project proved that with an 8m space between vehicles, vehicles achieve fuel savings from 7 to 15%. All results from this work package showed that platooning provides significant potential improvements for the efficient fuel use.
Secondly, with respect to commercial viability, the project concluded that the reduced fuel consumption enabled by road trains can lead to large savings in transportation costs and a decreased CO2 footprint. For passenger vehicles, monthly subscription models could be used to attract some commuters to become followers in road trains with commercial vehicles. Considering the initial investment and the annual costs, the return on investment is less than three years for road trains with commercial vehicles. For a trained driver, the return on investment, when investing in a new truck, is less than two years. Hence, road trains for commercial vehicles are viable from a business perspective. Another possible viable business case could be a model with a monthly subscription for commuters who may join existing road trains led by commercial vehicles. This market is expected to grow but is ultimately limited by the number of trucks on the road.
Finally, as far as the advantages for infrastructure and the environment are concerned, the platooning impact on the infrastructure will be in the interest of safety more than anything else. This is because it has been proved that platoons can work on a public road without any changes, even when considering things like the roadside safety barriers which are designed for collision with a single car instead of up to 8 cars colliding with them in close concession. The environmental aspect of the project is achieved by a reduction in fuel consumption which is directly linked to a reduction in gases emitted into the atmosphere. A truck can save up to 2.8 tons of CO2 in a single year and a car up to 0.1 tons simply by platooning.
- Introduction of the concept of vehicle platoons
- The concept uses the existing technical vehicle specifications as much as possible. Only very few technical alterations are required to the vehicles' existing systems in order for the platooning system to operate.
- Some of the software in the existing systems, e.g. the ACC system, has been modified to enable the additional control required. A number of new ECUs have been installed for the new SARTRE control software.
The successful realisation of the project would contribute to the achievement of the third goal of the ten goals for a competitive and resource-efficient transport system as provided in the EU Transport White Paper 2011, namely: optimising the performance of multimodal logistic chains, including by making greater use of more energy-efficient modes.
For platooning to be ready for implementation, certain legislation will need to be changed, removed, or created in order to have the largest impact:
There are strict rules currently in place so as to ensure drivers are concentrating on driving and are in a suitable condition to drive. The current policies state that drivers are not allowed to use mobile phones or eat and drink while in the driving seat of a moving vehicle. This project aimed to look into the possibilities of changing these regulations for vehicles in a platoon.
Different countries have different policies. To allow platoons to function on a global scale, governing laws as well as regional policies need to be altered.