The EU may approve "road trains" for European highways

road train 3Truck-based road trains are currently used for long-distance transport in rural Australia and in several other countries; they are created by physically connecting several trailers or semi-trailiers to the lead tractor unit.

The EU is proposing a different type of "train," which would be comprised of a mixture of trucks, buses, and passenger cars closely following one another in a slipstream, much as race cars do at professional tracks.  The project's acronym is SARTRE (SAfe Road TRains for the Environment).
The lead vehicle would be handled by a professional driver who would monitor the status of the road train. Those in following vehicles could take their hands off the wheel, read a book or watch TV, while they travel along the motorway. Their vehicle would be controlled by the lead vehicle.

The idea, of course, is to improve fuel economy and to relieve congestion by allowing a greater number of vehicles to occupy a given area of the roadway.  But notice how this concept also solves the problem of texting-while-driving, by removing the "driving" component and allowing the driver to spend his/her entire time texting.  Sounds perfectly logical to me.  What could possibly go wrong?

Link

Addendum January 2011:  The BBC is reporting that field trials using real vehicles have now gotten underway in Sweden.
Once the lead vehicle is in charge, the driver of the car is seen taking his hands off the wheel, reading a newspaper and sipping coffee as the journey proceeds.

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Even if the system gets invented and approved, no one will voluntarily be one of the middle cars. If you want to drive, you want to drive. If you want to take a train, you take a train. Whatever cost/convenience trade-offs occur will not move a sizable portion of people from either group.
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Nice article..but even if the system gets invented and approved, no one will voluntarily be one of the middle cars. If you want to drive, you want to drive. If you want to take a train, you take a train.
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Air drag is an enormous factor in fuel efficiency. Done correctly, this could result in drastic fuel savings. It could be done safely.
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