As connected and autonomous technology becomes more commonplace in cars, vans and heavy goods vehicles, the benefits for road users will gradually become more evident. Safer roads, more efficient vehicles and fewer traffic jams are all desirable objectives – and can be achieved with the aid of platooning, a new method of enabling vehicles to travel safely and efficiently together, in line, in constant communication.
What is platooning?
Vehicles equipped with connected technology follow each other in a convoy on major roads and motorways.
A radar system in the lead vehicle constantly measures the distance, speed and closure rates in the secondary vehicle(s).
A control module is responsible for computing all the relevant data, which is used to send decision signals that either keeps the vehicles in the platoon moving together, or engages the brakes to avoid a collision.
How does it work?
A forward-facing camera displays what the leading vehicle sees to the secondary vehicle(s). These cameras can also be used in conjunction with lane departure warning and lane keeping assist systems.
The ideal stopping distance
A €6.4m EU-funded project called SARTRE was able to run platoons with gaps of just 5m to 6m between them.
And it will bring safety benefits
The technology that links the vehicles will also bring safety benefits. For example, when the lead vehicle brakes, the information is communicated to the following vehicles in 0.1 seconds.
This means that a platooning vehicle moving at 50mph will travel a distance of just 2.2m before braking automatically.
Platooning could ease traffic jams
Vehicles travelling closer together will also take up less road space, leading to fewer traffic jams.
Questions of liability in the event of a collision still need to be addressed – not only to fleet drivers’ need to adapt to ceding control of a vehicle in a platoon but to other road users who need to adapt their driving to accommodate these new types of convoy.