Ricardo has today announced that the Department for Transport has commissioned the Shoreham-by-Sea based engineering consultancy and others to research platooning technology, specifically whether it should be applied to heavy goods vehicles.
Ricardo plc will lead a consortium made up TRL (Transport Research Laboratory), Ricardo AEA (a new operating division of Ricardo plc comprising the former business of AEA Europe) and Transport & Travel Research Ltd (TTR) to investigate the issues faced by legislators, haulage companies, drivers of the vehicles in the platoon, trunk road network operators and other road users, to establish whether a road trial of a heavy goods vehicle platoon should be considered.
Michael Baker, chief engineer, technology and innovation said, “We have been actively engaged in platooning research over a number of years with multiple international partners and see this emerging technology as offering significant benefits in both economic and environmental terms. We look forward to working with TRL and TTR on this important UK focused feasibility study.”
It is expected that the feasibility study will report back by the end of the financial year with a view to conducting a road trial in 2014.
Platooning offers aerodynamic performance and providing more steady state traffic flow
According to Ricardo, grouping vehicles into platoons can improve aerodynamic performance and providing more steady state traffic flow. This has the potential to lower fuel consumption (reduced carbon emission), improve network capacity and reduce traffic collisions.
Platooning is achieved by electronically linking vehicles using GPS, wireless and radar-sensing systems. The vehicles’ braking and acceleration are precisely matched and each vehicle in the platoon reacts automatically to the lead vehicle driver’s actions. It is expected that each vehicle in the platoon would have a driver at all times.
Ricardo previously led EU Road Train project involving trucks and Volvo cars
Ricardo led a three year EU funded project from 2009 to 2012 called Sartre - Safe Road Trains for the Environment, under the Framework 7 programme. It aimed to develop strategies and technologies to allow vehicle platoons to operate on normal public highways with significant environmental, safety and comfort benefits.
Sartre was a collaboration between Ricardo, Idiada and Robotiker-Tecnalia of Spain, Institut for Kraftfahrwesen Aachen (IKA) of Germany, SP Technical Research Institute of Sweden, Volvo Car Corporation and Volvo Technology of Sweden.
The project concluded with a press release announcing Platooned traffic can be integrated with other road users on conventional highways in September 2012.
“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.
Volvo Car Corporation was 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).
The following vehicles were 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. “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.”
New features that were added to the vehicles were a prototype Human-Machine Interface including a touch screen for displaying information and carrying out requests, such as joining and leaving the road train; as well as a prototype vehicle-to-vehicle communication unit that allows all vehicles within the platoon to communicate.
Sweden and Volvo Cars claim leadership in development of self-driving cars
Last month Volvo announced it had started a pilot project in Sweden with self-driving cars on public roads.
The Swedish government supported project ‘Drive Me – Self-driving cars for sustainable mobility’ is a joint initiative between Volvo Car Group, the Swedish Transport Administration, the Swedish Transport Agency, Lindholmen Science Park and the City of Gothenburg.
The trial involves 100 self-driving Volvo cars to be used on public roads in everyday driving conditions around the city of Gothenburg. The aim is to pinpoint the societal benefits of autonomous driving and position Sweden and Volvo Cars as leaders in the development of future mobility.
UK Government to conduct a review on testing driverless cars in the UK, to report by end of 2014
Platooning technology was referred in The Department for Transport's proposed spending plans for Roads in it's report to Parliament Action for Roads - A network for the 21st century, issued last June.
The Department said it "will work with industry and the research community to encourage the development and introduction of advanced technologies, ensuring that systems are safe and reliable before allowing them onto our roads. Separately, we will be commissioning a scoping study to look at the barriers to implementation and explore opportunities for UK trials."
Last month, the Treasury published the updated National Infrastructure Plan 2013 that contained a promise to review the legislative and regulatory framework for developing and testing driverless cars in the UK, reporting by the end of 2014.
According to the plan, "driverless cars are innovative technology that will change the way the world’s towns and cities look and the way people travel; they present opportunities for the British automotive industry in the manufacture of the cars and the wider science and engineering sectors in the design of towns. To ensure that UK industry and the wider public benefit from the development of driverless cars, the government announces in the National Infrastructure Plan that it will conduct a review, reporting at the end of 2014, to ensure that the legislative and regulatory framework demonstrates to the world’s car companies that the UK is the right place to develop and test driverless cars."