Volvo successfully concludes SARTRE project: Autonomous driving is future

Autonomous driving or self driving vehicle project, SARTRE was undertaken by Volvo Car Corporation. This project helped in creating possibilities for safer driving leaving drivers…

Autonomous driving or self driving vehicle project, SARTRE was undertaken by Volvo Car Corporation. This project helped in creating possibilities for safer driving leaving drivers to concentrate on other activities while behind the wheel. Volvo Car Corporation is making inroads into this autonomous driving technology which will use least amount of human intervention while steering, accelerating or braking. Theory is that if a plane can fly up in the air in autopilot mode, why not a car on the street?

Volvo Car Corporation will be conducting an in-depth study on consumer attitudes where self driving cars are concerned. Studies show that while younger drivers in the age group of 18 to 37 are more acceptable to this idea there are an equal number of drivers who are apprehensive to the challenge. Besides permitting the driver to concentrate on other activities, self driven vehicles or autonomous driving technology has other advantages as well. These include the possibility of zero accidents and injuries, fuel consumption reduction and shorter time travel due to fewer incidents of traffic jams.

SARTRE – Safe Road Trains for the Environment project has also been finalized during the current year.  Here a total of 7 auto partners in Europe along with Volvo Car Corporation will ensure that automated driving technology goes ahead according to plan and sees light of day when drivers will only be behind the wheel in person but capable of performing other mundane functions while leaving the steering of their vehicle in more capable hands.

For more information, scroll down.


Auto News Release

Volvo Car Corporation concludes following the SARTRE project:

Platooned traffic can be integrated with other road users on conventional highways

The SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project, involving seven European partners, has been successfully finalised during 2012.

This unique project highlights the potential for implementing road trains on conventional highways, with platooned traffic operating in a mixed environment with other road users.

Thanks to Volvo Car Corporation and the other partners in the SARTRE road train project, you may soon be able to take your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road in your own car – leaving the automated driving to modern technology.

“The road train is the best of two worlds. You can enjoy all the multi-tasking possibilities of public transportation behind the wheel of your own car. It’s the perfect complement to the true pleasure of driving a Volvo yourself,” says Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Corporation.

Four-metre gap between vehicles

Volvo Car Corporation is the only participating car manufacturer in SARTRE. The project road train includes a manually driven lead truck, which is followed by one truck and three Volvo cars (S60, V60 and XC60).

All the following vehicles are driven autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h – in some cases with no more than a four-metre gap between the vehicles – thanks to a blend of present and new technology.

“The basic principle is that the following vehicles repeat the motion of the lead vehicle,” says Erik Coelingh. He adds: “To achieve this we have extended the camera, radar and laser technology used in present safety and support systems such as Adaptive Cruise Control, City Safety, Lane Keeping Aid, Blind Sport Information System and Park Assist Pilot.”

The most important new features that have been added to the vehicles are:

  • A prototype Human-Machine Interface including a touch screen for displaying vital information and carrying out requests, such as joining and leaving the road train.
  • A prototype vehicle-to-vehicle communication unit that allows all vehicles within the platoon to communicate with each other.

Smoother than public transportation

The long-term vision is to create a transport system where joining the road train will be more attractive and comfortable than leaving your car behind and using public transportation on long-distance trips.

“Road train information and operation will of course be integrated in the Volvo Sensus infotainment system when the technology is ready for production. Booking, joining and leaving the road train must be easy and smooth,” says Erik Coelingh. He adds: “Another challenge is to create a system that handles the cost aspects. It is logical that taking the road train will include a fee or an income, depending on whether you own a lead vehicle or a following vehicle.”

Many benefits

Parallel with the attractive possibility to do other things while driving, the road train brings several other crucial advantages:

  • It promotes safer transport. A professional driver leads the vehicle platoon, for instance in a truck. Inter-vehicle reaction response times are very quick thanks to the co-ordinated technology.
  • Environmental impact is reduced. The cars drive close to each other and reap the benefit of lower air drag.
  • The reduced speed variations improve traffic flow, creating more efficiently utilised road capacity.

“The energy-saving potential is 10-20 percent. This means that the journey to your holiday destination doesn’t only become more comfortable and safe. The money you save on reduced fuel consumption can be spent on lunch by the beach instead,” smiles Erik Coelingh.

Stakeholder dialogue

Recognizing that the challenge of implementing road train technology on Europe’s highways is not solely a technical matter, SARTRE also includes a major study to identify what changes will be needed for vehicle platooning to become a reality.

“There are several issues to solve before road trains become a reality on European roads. As the leader in car safety, Volvo Car Corporation is particularly focused on emergency situations such as obstacle avoidance or sudden braking. However, we are convinced that road trains have great potential,” concludes Erik Coelingh.

The SARTRE project stands for Safe Road Trains for the Environment. Part-funded by the European Commission under the Framework 7 programme, SARTRE is led by Ricardo UK Ltd and comprises collaboration between the following additional participating companies: Applus+, IDIADA and Tecnalia of Spain, Institut fĂĽr Kraftfahrzeuge (ika) of the RWTH Aachen University of Germany, and SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Volvo Car Corporation and Volvo Group of Sweden.


Volvo Car Corporation aims for leadership within autonomous driving technology

Entering the field of autonomous driving – self-driving vehicles – is the next giant leap in Volvo Car Corporation’s development of the world’s safest cars.

Autonomous driving paves the way for more freedom behind the wheel. It creates the possibility to safely do something else, such as sending text messages or reading a book while the car is driven autonomously.

The first focus areas in Volvo Car Corporation’s technology development are autonomous driving in slow-moving queues and, in a longer perspective, road trains on motorways.

“Our aim is to gain leadership in the field of autonomous driving by moving beyond concepts and pioneering technologies that will reach the customers. Making these features reliable enough to use on public roads is crucial to boosting customer confidence in self-driving cars,” says Marcus Rothoff, Product Attribute Manager, Driver Assistance at Volvo Car Corporation.

Autonomous driving – with steering, acceleration and/or braking automatically controlled by a vehicle that requires very little human interaction – is already highly present in the modern transport society.

“Hardly anyone thinks twice about being in an airplane that flies on autopilot. But being in a car that drives by itself while the driver reads a book is still quite a revolutionary thought for many people,” says Marcus Rothoff.

Positive customer feedback

Of course Volvo Car Corporation’s firm focus on designing cars around people includes investigating the consumer attitude towards self-driving cars.

Recent studies show that almost half of the respondents would be comfortable using a self-driving car (Accenture 2011). Almost 50 percent of drivers aged 18-37 would definitely or probably buy a vehicle capable of fully autonomous driving (J.D. Power 2012).

In 2011, Volvo Car Corporation invited a number of premium car owners to evaluate future driver support technologies at the company’s test track – and one of the guests commented spontaneously: “A perfect support for driving on the Autobahn. If anything is going to encourage me to text in my car, it is this.”

One of the research conclusions is that younger consumers in particular are willing to pay for technology that can help manage distractions created by the urge to be constantly connected in the car too. Autonomous driving would create the desired possibility to safely send text messages, update Facebook status or read a book while driving.

A necessity to attract young buyers

The necessity for a successful carmaker to please the next generation consumers was the main topic for Volvo Car Corporation President and CEO Stefan Jacoby’s presentation at the 2012 Automotive News Europe Conference in Monaco. He said:

“Teenagers look at cars with different, less traditional eyes than we, their parents, do. When we regard the driver’s seat as a symbol for freedom and mobility, they see the only place where they can’t be constantly connected. And many of them think that this constant connectivity is more important than having a driver’s licence and a car.”

“This view is an exciting challenge for Volvo Car Corporation. We must design intelligent cars that take over the driving while you focus on something else. Such as sending a text or communicating on Facebook,” Stefan Jacoby continued. “Personally, I am convinced that the majority of tomorrow’s car owners will not even dream of buying a car without autonomous driving possibilities.”

Several other advantages

The possibility for a driver to focus on something other than driving offers a number of other advantages as well:

  • There is a potential for zero accidents and injuries during autonomous driving.
  • Autonomous driving can cut fuel consumption by up to 50 percent in certain situations.
  • It also has the potential for shortening travel times by improving traffic flow.

“Allowing the car to act automatically is crucial when moving toward the vision that future cars will not crash at all. Our present systems for auto braking, lane keeping aid and adaptive cruise control could be described as the first steps towards autonomous driving. Now, we are moving towards technologies with a higher degree of autonomous driving in normal traffic situations,” says Marcus Rothoff.

Autonomous driving in traffic queues

One of several ongoing autonomous driving projects at Volvo Car Corporation is a support system that automatically follows the vehicle in front in slow-moving queues.

“It has considerable scope for making the driver’s life easier. Our first generation of this advanced technology focuses on driving in queues at low speeds. The car follows the vehicle in front in the same lane. However, it is always the driver who is in charge. He or she can take back control of the car at any time,” says Marcus Rothoff.

Join the road train on motorways

The European SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project has focused on the attractive possibility of taking your hands off the wheel and your eyes off the road in your own car on long motorway trips.

Volvo Car Corporation is the only participating car manufacturer in the project, which has been successfully completed in 2012.

The SARTRE platoon included a lead truck followed by four vehicles driven autonomously at speeds of up to 90 km/h – in some cases with no more than a four-metre gap between the vehicles.

“The road train is the best of two worlds. You can enjoy all the multi-tasking possibilities of public transportation behind the wheel of your own car,” says Erik Coelingh, Technical Specialist at Volvo Car Corporation.

The self-parking car

Volvo Car Corporation also evaluates other autonomous driving possibilities:

How about walking away from your car at the entrance to an airport parking lot and letting it find a vacant spot by itself? Or maybe you would enjoy a fully automated drive in an enclosed area such as a safari park – allowing you to focus on getting great snapshots of the lions instead of driving?

“The successful implementation of autonomous driving in enclosed areas or on public roads requires partnerships with other stakeholders. Certain legal issues must also be resolved,” says Marcus Rothoff. He adds:

“But we are convinced that autonomous driving will take car driving into a whole new dimension. And we intend to lead the way when it comes to bringing these new technologies beyond concepts, all the way to the customers.”