Tests within the development of safe road train technology soon ready for takeoff
The exciting EU SARTRE project has now been running for a year. Its purpose is to develop, test and validate technology for vehicles that can drive themselves in long road trains on motorways. The SARTRE team is currently aiming to carry out the first development tests of a single lead and following vehicle before the end of 2010. A documentary film describing the first year’s work of this multi-partner research initiative is now available.
One year into its three year programme of work, the SARTRE project aims to develop and demonstrate road train technologies that will enable improvements in traffic flow and faster journey times, offering greater comfort to drivers, reducing accidents and improving fuel consumption, hence lowering CO2 emissions.
Most of the first year has been busy with the concept phase, which has involved the seven partner consortium investigating the basic principles of a feasible platooning system. Issues investigated have included usage cases, human factors and behaviours associated with platooning, core system parameters, and specification of prototype architecture and applications. In addition to providing some highly thought-provoking and useful results in its own right, this essential groundwork has enabled the team to move onto the start of the implementation phase which will see the start of vehicle testing.
The SARTRE team is currently aiming to carry out the first development tests of a single lead and following vehicle before the end of 2010. This first iteration of the SARTRE architecture will involve installation of the necessary hardware into the two vehicles, implementation of vehicle-to-vehicle communications, incorporation and integration of sensors, and low level actuator and lateral and longitudinal control of the following vehicle. The crucial software integration needed for driving automation has already commenced, and the first tests of a two vehicle train are expected to take place before the end of December. Subsequent phases of the work to be carried out in 2011 and early 2012 will see the concept demonstrated on a five-vehicle road train with strategies handling interaction with other road users.
In the eight minute long documentary, available via the SARTRE web site (www.SARTRE-project.eu and www.youtube.com/volvocarsnews) a range of interviews are provided by key participants and stakeholders in the project.
In addition to describing the SARTRE concept in detail, the film shows some of the simulator-based testing at Tecnalia, Bilbao, Spain, in which human factors in the implementation of road train technology have been investigated. A sample group of men and women of varying ages and driving experience were tested in the simulator, which provides a 120 degree forward field of view via two LCD screens through which a total length of 18km of virtual motorway can be driven. The simulator incorporates a steering wheel with force feedback, realistic manual/automatic transmission controls and a haptic seat installation which, together, provides a highly realistic virtual driving environment.
This simulation work has enabled the team to assess in detail the response of drivers both while participating in road trains and while driving independently in an environment in which road trains are operating. Further coverage is shown of some of the sensor and actuator development work and of the control architecture design that will support the implementation phase over the coming months.
The partners have also published three technical papers, covering specific details of the work of the concept phase, at the ITS World Congress held in October at Busan, Korea. These papers – which are also available on the SARTRE web site (www.SARTRE-project.eu) – have respectively covered the subjects of the challenges of platooning on public highways, an overview of the approach to the development of platooning being taken by the SARTRE project, and the human factor challenges of implementing such a dual mode transportation system.
“The SARTRE documentary film and the technical papers delivered at the ITS World Congress provide an extremely useful insight into the project for those interested in the potential for road train technology,” explains Tom Robinson, SARTRE project coordinator of Ricardo UK Ltd. “SARTRE is really pushing the boundaries in this aspect of ITS technology and is already providing some extremely useful and actionable results. We now look forward to the next stage of the work of the project which will see vehicle tests, initially of just of a single vehicle for sensor, actuator and control system validation, then of a two vehicle platoon later this year and subsequently through the remainder of the project, a multiple vehicle platoon in order to test, develop, validate and identify remaining implementation issues forthe entire SARTRE system.”