Engineers are working on “platooning” technology to create convoys of semi-autonomous wirelessly linked vehicles.
According to the BBC:
This technology aims to create semi-autonomous road trains, where convoys of vehicles enter a snaking train of vehicles under the command of the lead vehicle. The drivers of the “drones” are then free to do whatever they like – read a book, take a nap or just sit. When they are ready to leave, the driver takes back control and exits the train.
A recent demonstration has shown a 15% improvement in fuel economy. Proponents claim that platooning would also reduce road congestion as the spacing between vehicles in the convoy is relatively close (3-6 meters or about 10-20 feet in one test).
A European project led by Volvo has experimented with convoys of both trucks and passenger cars.
However, there are still several obstacles to overcome. The technical aspects of lane changing and joining a convoy need to be worked out. Is the public ready to share the road with semi-autonomous vehicles, particularly large trucks?