Will Road Trains Take to the Road?
The idea is simple: you link cars up with computers and the lead driver does not only control his car but all the following cars. This may help reduce the impact of cars on the environment but is it just science fiction? Are people really prepared to give up control to a lead driver? Part of the appeal of driving is the freedom that it “allows” (“takes” in my opinion), but on the other hand many find it a very tedious and time consuming ordeal.
How does it work exactly?
Cars have radar and communication technology that allows a lead vehicles to control all the linked up cars. Drivers join the convoy through turning on their system and logging on to a convoy. When a particular car wants to leave the convoy, space is made to allow the driver to take back control and leave the convoy.
Tests are being now carried out by Volvo in Sweden. First trials seem successful. In the trial a lorry successfully controlled a following car. Experts predict that such convoys will take to Europe’s roads within a decade.
Because the cars are controlled by a single being they can control their speed better and this allows the cars to get nearer to each other; after all if the first car brakes all the cars brake (hopefully). This will result in improved fuel efficiency, less demand for new roads and reduced congestion and the resulting pointless pollution.
However there is a catch. Car envoys due to being safer will be able to travel at higher speeds. Higher speeds mean massive drops in fuel efficiency.
Germany does not have a higher speed limit. Part of the reason why German cars are some of the most powerful and therefore also most polluting cars built. Drivers are able to go faster and car manufactures have fed on this lust for speed.
A Porsche Cayenne Turbo 5 for example gets a poor 11 Litres to the 100 km at 80 Km/h but at its top speed it swallows a wallet hitting 66.7 litres for every 100 kms travelled. A Toyota Prius although only a top speed of 170 km/h still more than doubles its consumption from a leisurely 80 km/h to over 11 litres.
Overall though car convoys are a positive development: fewer roads will need to be built and congestion will be reduced. Unfortunately it also makes driving more appealing. I have the freedom to go when I want to go, but also the convenience that someone else controls my car allowing me the time that driving normally takes up. Through sensible policies from government i.e. allowing the cars only to go a certain speeds due to theireffi ciency crashes at high speed it will also reduce greenhouse gases as unnecessary braking will be reduced.
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