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The EU may approve "road trains" for European highways

Truck-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.

I get people doing this, informally, all the time. The thing I hate most about other people's driving is tailgating - some of them so close you can't see their headlights.

Having said that, set up properly this might be workable though I'd find it very unnerving at first.
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I wonder how many vehicles you could chain together and have it still be safe.

This morning I passed a Winnebago pulling an SUV pulling a speedboat and that made me nervous...
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I agree with Skipweasel, unnerving. My first thoughts were seeing 18 wheelers jack-knifing and losing control. As a passenger in one of the towed vehicles, I can't imagine trying to text while being on the business of `crack the whip`.
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It'll never get used. 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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Edward - I'm not so sure. I had to visit Mum twice last week - it's a 400 mile round trip but not particularly practical by train - not to mention expensive.

If I could have joined a road-train even for an hour or so I'd have jumped at the chance.
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I have no problems with road trains pulling semi trailers in rural areas such as deserts or tundras, but around regular everyday traffic, that's a no no. Lay more track and leave it to CSX. :^P
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"I wonder how many vehicles you could chain together and have it still be safe."

Read the article. They aren't chained together. They're linked by an electronic network. The participating vehicles are fitted with electronic controls that, when part of a "train," are operated by the lead vehicle.

No one's being towed.
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ill be the middle car! correctly backed up computers can hold those distances perfectly. Some newer mercedes already brake and accelarate when on cruise control. this is just a step further.
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If the free time and relaxation of this doesn't entice you, maybe 40% fuel saving does.
http://www.hypermiler.co.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=68&Itemid=64
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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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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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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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