Beta

Slashdot: News for Nerds

×

Welcome to the Slashdot Beta site -- learn more here. Use the link in the footer or click here to return to the Classic version of Slashdot.

Thank you!

Before you choose to head back to the Classic look of the site, we'd appreciate it if you share your thoughts on the Beta; your feedback is what drives our ongoing development.

Beta is different and we value you taking the time to try it out. Please take a look at the changes we've made in Beta and  learn more about it. Thanks for reading, and for making the site better!

"Road Trains" Ready To Roll

ScuttleMonkey posted more than 4 years ago | from the new-possibilities-in-war-driving dept.

Transportation 318

clickclickdrone writes to mention that "road trains," a system linking vehicles together via wireless sensors, could soon be rolled out in Europe. The system is designed primarily for cutting fuel consumption, travel time, and congestion. "Funded under the European Commission's Framework 7 research plan, Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) is aimed at commuters in cars who travel long distances to work every day but will also look at ways to involve commercial vehicles. Tom Robinson, project co-ordinator at engineering firm Ricardo, said the idea was to use off-the-shelf components to make it possible for cars, buses and trucks to join the road train."

cancel ×

318 comments

Tailgating to the max (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035476)

This seems like a risky move, but it sure looks cool.

Re:Tailgating to the max (5, Funny)

cayenne8 (626475) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035780)

Why is my first thought of someone playing 'crack the whip' on one of these long trains??

Re:Tailgating to the max (2, Interesting)

VernonNemitz (581327) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036152)

Sounds a lot like this idea: Train-of-cars [halfbakery.com] that was posted more than 4 years ago. Note that means certain elements are therefore in the Public Domain and cannot be patented.

Re:Tailgating to the max (4, Funny)

daem0n1x (748565) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036276)

Here in Europe, we already use these trains during rush hour. They can reach lengths of many kilometers.

We call them traffic jams. And we don' need no stinkin' wireless link.

What hath the free market wrought? (3, Interesting)

BitHive (578094) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035478)

If this catches on in America some gear heads are going to explode.

I know, right? (1)

TiggertheMad (556308) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035822)

Yeah, think of all the new 'convoy' sequels that we will have to listen to on the radio...

*shudder*

Re:What hath the free market wrought? (2, Interesting)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035922)

Well considering the internet evolved from a government project I'd say there isn't going to be any heads exploding over this. Especially if it has military applications which it probably does. Reducing fuel expenditure is a tactical advantage and the vast majority of free market types still support the idea of the government fulfilling the role of national defense to some degree.

Ummm (0)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035484)

Don't we have this already?

Railway trains perchance?

Prawns.

Re:Ummm (1)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035528)

Well, if you take a train then need a car at your destination, you need to rent one or spend money on cab fare. If you have too much stuff to take in the train (e.g. moving house a long distance), a train is not an option whatsoever. There are also places with existing roads where building new heavy rail would be impossible or impractical or incredibly expensive.

Re:Ummm (use actual trains) (2, Insightful)

pburt (244477) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035710)

Maybe there should be car-carrying trains. Or stop building sprawl. Anyway, actual trains are far more efficient than this could ever be.

Re:Ummm (use actual trains) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035908)

Or stop building sprawl.

Or just start killing people once they get too old to hold down the population to a manageable amount so everyone can live in a "small" town.

Re:Ummm (use actual trains) (4, Funny)

Garridan (597129) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036178)

Naw, killing the young is both a better deterrent to overpopulation, and easier because the ignorant good-for-nothing whippersnappers won't even see it coming.

Re:Ummm (use actual trains) (2, Informative)

plague3106 (71849) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035948)

Maybe there should be car-carrying trains.

There already are. What makes you think there aren't?

Or stop building sprawl.

And the sprawl that already exists? Face it, its not going anywhere, so you'll have to deal with this issue. Trains aren't really going to work, unless perhaps they make them incrediblly fast.

Anyway, actual trains are far more efficient than this could ever be.

Since it's not even deployed, perhaps you should wait before passing judgement.

Re:Ummm (use actual trains) (1)

RiotingPacifist (1228016) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036110)

On/off loading is too hard/slow and train stations (at least here in the UK are often in a terrible location for car traffic). In theory it's a great idea but in practice it costs too much to set-up for businesses to bother. It has been done in France [raileurope.co.uk] (probably subsidized, but hey i'm a dirty socialist and think government spending money to reduce CO2 emission is needed) but the cars are moved on separate trains so it's no good for everyday travel.

Re:Ummm (1, Insightful)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035720)

You could, you know, drive your car onto the train.......

Re:Ummm (1)

cynyr (703126) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035878)

how about the moving van? Ever move a family of four in a house? or hell either of my grandmothers.

Re:Ummm (2, Informative)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036042)

Its been done. On some smaller roads connecting towns in Austria, I've seen them prohibit truck traffic. In each town, they drive the trucks onto railroad flatcars and haul them between towns.

Re:Ummm (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30036118)

how about the moving van?

Use a container truck and load the container onto a spine wagon. Railways are really good at moving bulk cargo...

I just hope... (2, Interesting)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035494)

That you can check the professional driver's safety record before joining the train.

Re:I just hope... (1)

jason.sweet (1272826) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035856)

As long as it's Kris Kristofferson diving the lead vehicle, we have nothing to worry about.

Re:I just hope... (1)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036292)

That you can check the professional driver's safety record before joining the train.

And his blood alcohol content? Which brings up a fascinating scenario. Could you bring an unopened booze bottle into a car and then join a train? Then chug the booze, with the plan that you'd sober up well before your 2 hour commute is over? But, something happens, and the train kicks you out? Now you're DWI, but its someone elses fault?

Or, even if no drinking was done in the car, if your digestion was slow enough that your BAC was below the limit BOTH before and after you joined the train, but while you were a passive passenger in the train, it was above the limit, is that still legally DWI even if you were not driving?

Fuel economy ? (1, Insightful)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035496)

Ah ah !

20% less fuel for the vehicles following the main vehicle..

(they forget to mention the *EXTRA* fuel expense for the leading vehicle that is basically towing the others..)

Basically, no one will ever want to be in front (look at cycle races.. it only works if people take turns at being the 1st in line..)

--Ivan

Re:Fuel economy ? (3, Informative)

mmkkbb (816035) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035544)

The lead vehicle is a purpose-built vehicle driven by a professional driver, not a 'passenger' of the train.

Re:Fuel economy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035798)

Right so a (probably exaggerated) 20% increase in efficiency of the vehicles behind.

But an additional vehicle on the road, that I assume is going to be a larger vehicle. So absolute best case scenario you need 5 cars following in the train at a minimum just to brake even, assuming the lead vehicle has similar efficiency (larger cross section required for this to work well, but do it with less weight, since you don't need extra capacity for passengers or cargo). In reality you'd probably need 6 or 7 to break even, and more to have any benefit.

And that's if they all tuck in immediately after the lead vehicle gets on the highway/carriageway. More than 7 to even start having any benefit, again, immediately after the vehicle gets on. Else wise you have to make up the time he’s driving around with less than 7.

Plus you've got the salaries for all of these "Cabdrivers" towing everyone around.

And the reality is he'll get on the highway and start trolling for leachers to tuck in behind, and except for the right times of day, he'll never get that. So we've just put the concept of empty or below capacity trains trolling around looking for passengers, onto the roads.

Of no use during gridlock of course.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035836)

Makes sense.. Guess I didn't read TFA up to the end !

But anyway, I am not 100% sure (but I am no aerodynamics physicist) of how efficient this would be *overall* as far as fuel consumption is concerned.

However, the undeniable advantage is being able to zap through traffic (because the road lane would have to be committed to this) - and possibly going above posted speed limits "legally"
But because one of the characteristics are that all vehicles are essentially tailgating each others, at high speed and with no driver intervention, there are also some concerns:

- All vehicles would need to be at a certain guaranteed reliability limit
- The communication system has to be secure as you don't want some moron entering a "train" and feeding bogus information to the cluster
- The communication system has to be reliable enough so that none of the train components miss some essential piece of information
- The lane has to be protected against unauthorized intrusion
- Possibly others..

--Ivan

Re:Fuel economy ? (4, Funny)

ivan_w (1115485) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035916)

Ok.. Made a fool of myself..

There seem to be overwhelming evidence that I was utterly wrong.. Ah well..

Since I can't mod myself -1 stupid, I'll just flog myself 10 times !

--Ivan

Re:Fuel economy ? (3, Insightful)

russotto (537200) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035604)

(they forget to mention the *EXTRA* fuel expense for the leading vehicle that is basically towing the others..)

This is not always the case. In some cases, the reduction of the drag from turbulence off the rear means that the leading vehicle also gets a benefit, though not as much as the following ones. This is true in stock car racing and in skating; I don't know about cycling.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

dr2chase (653338) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035920)

It is true of cycling, at least in certain cases, I read it in the most recent edition of (the book) Bicycling Science. It's not nearly as large as the benefit from following.

Re:Fuel economy ? (4, Funny)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035610)

Don't forget that if you're in front you're winning. A true gamer has rear view mirrors that say "Objects in mirror are losing".

Re:Fuel economy ? (4, Informative)

mlyle (148697) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035612)

Actually, lead vehicles benefit from this, too, just not nearly as much.

Even though vehicle aerodynamics have tried to combat it, there is a big negative pressure bubble forming your car's wake 'pulling' it backwards. Partially filling it with another vehicle's high pressure region where it 'cuts' the oncoming air helps.

Re:Fuel economy ? (5, Informative)

jcochran (309950) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035622)

Actually, the vehicle in front also benefits from the drafting. Not to the same degree as the trailing vehicles, but it gets a significant benefit none the less. See http://www.livescience.com/technology/070215_nascar_aero.html [livescience.com] for details.

Re:Fuel economy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035628)

Or like carpooling here, we can just pay the lead driver some small stipend to make up for it ...

Re:Fuel economy ? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035640)

20% less fuel for the vehicles following the main vehicle..

(they forget to mention the *EXTRA* fuel expense for the leading vehicle that is basically towing the others..)

Not true. If you look at the aerodynamics, the low pressure behind the leading vehicle (by itself) actually slows it down by increased drag. Putting a 2nd vehicle closely behind the first also reduces the drag on the leading vehicle.

Basically, no one will ever want to be in front (look at cycle races.. it only works if people take turns at being the 1st in line..)

Bike races are different - because it's not a question of using less energy. It a question of using less energy THAN THE OTHER COMPETITORS.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

LtGordon (1421725) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035650)

they forget to mention the *EXTRA* fuel expense for the leading vehicle that is basically towing the others..)

Fortunately, aerodynamics does not work like that. The reduced fuel consumption for the following vehicles is a result of reduced aerodynamic drag. Basically the lead vehicle pushes the air and forms a low-pressure wake behind it that the followers take advantage of. However, there is no additional drag penalty for the lead car. The only thing the lead car has to envy is the fuel savings that he doesn't get by being up front.

Statistically speaking, this would be mitigated by the fact that you should only rarely have to be at the front of the "train". E.g. in a ten car "train", you could expect to be a beneficiary approx. 90% of the time.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036074)

And given that the lead car in such a "train" (according to the article) is a professional driver operating a purpose-built vehicle, the only one incurring a drag penalty is the vehicle that was built and is operated specifically to accept the drag penalty.

Which leads to some interesting economics. If each car in the line enjoys a 10% increase in fuel efficiency, and you have ten cars in line, you are (at best) saving approximately the fuel that would have been consumed by a theoretical car that gets the average fuel mileage of the line. You are gaining that benefit by running a dedicated vehicle and driver to "break wind" (pun intended) for the rest. That dedicated vehicle is going to be laden with a certain amount of electronics, and probably some good crash zone front-and-back just in case something goes wrong. So it's hardly going to be "above average efficiency".

So, how many cars would have to be running in a duckling formation like this to make up for the fuel and maintenance incurred by having the lead vehicle out there, the wages for said driver, etc?

If the formations are long enough to be efficient, they are going to be (for all intents, traffic-wise) a single contiguous vehicle running (obviously) at or near the speed limit. If you run it in the "speed/passing" lane, you'll have asshats whirling around on the right trying to get around you and it's going to be hard to separate from the pack to exit. If you run it on the "slow/ramp" lane, no one will be able to onramp as you pass by. And if you run it in the middle lane(s) if they exist, you'll effectively make it impossible to cross over from edge lane to edge lane (fast lane to an exit, for example) without disruption of the line. Any place you put this "train", you're going to affect the efficiency of traffic flow around you.

Or you keep the lines of cars really short, in which case see the "economical" question posed immediately above.

If ALL vehicles did this, it could work, maybe. If nothing goes wrong with any of the cars in line (tire blown or any sort of panic maneuver, or simply electrical failure or running out of gas). But if you have a pool of vehicles that did this mixed with other cars, you'd have problems. Heck, one idiot pulling in front of mama duck and slamming on his brakes HARD is going to cause almost all of the vehicles in line to get dented up at least. No two cars have the exact same braking force, so telling all the cars to panic stop will get almost all of them bouncing into each other.

"New terrorist tip, pull in front of road train and throw an infidel out the window"

One advantage, though... the lead vehicle could have the potential to be carrying either people or cargo, so if you enlisted Greyhound or professional long-haul truckers to do this, you could at least use existing miles consumed to run it, rather than running new vehicles that ONLY serve as windbreakers. This would best be handled as a dedicated, separated lane, maybe one that could be shared with existing bus lanes where they exist, and busses could be used as the lead vehicles.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

RealGrouchy (943109) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035682)

(they forget to mention the *EXTRA* fuel expense for the leading vehicle that is basically towing the others..)

WTF?

Trailing vehicles (in cycling or in trucking) are merely fitting into the pocket made by the lead vehicle, which would otherwise have been wasted into turbulence. The lead vehicle would have to break through the wind either way. If anything, the absence of turbulence behind their vehicle (since another vehicle is carrying the stream) would improve their aerodynamics for the lead vehicle.

Would you similarly suggest that if I create some software and release the code for others to use and modify, that it would require more programming on my part than if I just wrote the exact same code and kept it to myself?

- RG>

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

chronosan (1109639) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035936)

If you're a GOOD developer, and focus on making your system reusable, then ...yes.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

JesseMcDonald (536341) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035772)

(they forget to mention the *EXTRA* fuel expense for the leading vehicle that is basically towing the others..)

Where is this magical extra drag coming from?

A line of well-designed vehicles has basically the same drag characteristics as a single long vehicle. The drag for a vehicle consists mainly of the pressure acting on the front and the vacuum acting on the back; a long vehicle and a short vehicle with the same general profile in these areas will have about the same drag. In a vehicle train, the first and last vehicles benefit the least—but still benefit some, since they only have to deal with the pressure or vacuum, not both—and the vehicles in the middle can disregard air resistance almost entirely. None of the vehicles is stuck "towing" the others; instead, the first and last vehicle share the work of separating, accelerating, and recombining the air stream around the entire vehicle train, tasks which would otherwise have to be repeated independently for each vehicle.

Re:Fuel economy ? (2, Informative)

4D6963 (933028) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035928)

(they forget to mention the *EXTRA* fuel expense for the leading vehicle that is basically towing the others..)

Oh look, someone who doesn't know what he's talking about by tries to sound like he does just got modded up. "Trailing cars fill in the lead car's low-pressure wake, thereby cutting down pressure drag."

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

wizardforce (1005805) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035972)

Birds do this all the time. If it didn't benefit the flock to form these cooperative formations then it would not have been selected for as strongly as it obviously was.

Re:Fuel economy ? (2, Informative)

vertinox (846076) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036006)

I'm sure they could... you know... take turns.

Truckers in general are pretty congenial amongst themselves on the road. It only takes a few minutes on listening to the CB radio to know they got each others backs.

Re:Fuel economy ? (2, Insightful)

Eivind (15695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036134)

Nope. Not true. The leading vehicle experiences no extra drag at all, thing is it -is- to some extent towing the vehicles behind it, but if it wasn't it would instead be towing the -air- along, to the same degree. (that air being dragged along is, afterall, the source of the saved fuel for the cars behind.

5 cars driving close together really do use less fuel in sum, compared to 5 individual cars. It's -not- just a question of redistributing the consumption, there's real savings.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

OldSoldier (168889) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036160)

Good to see this particular technology come to life. It's been discussed a bunch in the past. However, when I read the headline I thought of my fav alternative, actual TRAINS.

The idea is to extend the ferry boat concept to things like Amtrack. I live in Seattle and when I need to go to Portland I drive instead of taking the train at least in part because I'll need my car when I get there. If I could drive my car on to a train and wait in the train for the trip to Portland and then drive off once I arrive, I may actually consider using mass transit to get from here to there.

In short, the problem with mass transit is it's a hub-to-hub solution and unless there's a hub-to-destination solution at both ends it's always going to be a hard sell. Ferry's (IMHO) and to a lesser extend the OP's "Land Trains" solve the complete destination-to-destination problem.

Re:Fuel economy ? (1)

BryanL (93656) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036250)

Since the lead vehicle will be driven by a professional driver there is a good chance it will be a semi. If it is, the owner can make additional revenue through advertising. Set up a big video board on the back of the truck and sell ad space. The cars behind are a captive audience. I can already see trucks heading to Vegas advertising casinos. Wait. Maybe I should get a patent.

Mis-application of technology (1, Insightful)

tomhudson (43916) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035506)

The system is designed primarily at cutting fuel consumption, travel time, and congestion.

A better application of technology would be to cut the need for travel via telecomumting, telepresence, etc.

the big problem is that management doesn't have that much of a clue as to how to measure job performance and "manage people" w/o the presence of warm bodies, and when we come up with real metrics and methods, most managers would quickly become redundant.

Re:Mis-application of technology (1)

carvalhao (774969) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035696)

Although I agree that for some jobs that is a clever alternative and the almost eventual future, there will always be a lot of jobs that require the warm body around (medical, teaching and the likes). So yes, we should invest in reducing the need to commute but also in making the process as efficient as possible when we don't have a alternative.

Re:Mis-application of technology (1)

Neil Watson (60859) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035938)

I would surmise that if such a large quantity of people could work via telecommuting those people that still must commute could do so very efficiently because of traffic reduction.

Autonomous or semi-autonomous vehicles are a worthy goal but as the parent post points out if a significant portion of the population were permitted to telecommute traffic gridlock and associated pollution would plummet. There are also other benefits to this situation. Shorter commutes mean happier people. Combined with cleaner air health care costs would drop.

I've spent time telecommuting. Having an extra one to three hours of extra time in the day is liberating.

I do not think it means what you think it means (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30036038)

"require"?

Medical - http://www.sri.com/esd/med_devel/robotic-systems.html [sri.com] . Since 2000 the FDA has cleared a system for telepresence surgery "for thoracoscopic (chest) surgery, for cardiac procedures performed with adjunctive incisions, and urologic and gynecologic procedures."

Education - this being slashdot, let's skip over U.C. and the many, similar others who offer long-distance learning options at the undergraduate level and go hard-core. http://sdm.mit.edu/distance.html [mit.edu] . The SDM distance-learning option is a 24-month program—MIT’s first graduate-degree program offered primarily at a distance.

Re:Mis-application of technology (1)

starglider29a (719559) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035900)

Maybe. But most jobs require people to be there, and those of us who support those people must "be there", too.

Anything which helps the commuters is welcome. Even if I don't use the train thingy, I'll have 8 people under the control of a highly-skilled, licensed driver. AND NOT in "texting while driving partial control" of their vehicle. THAT is an improvement.

Re:Mis-application of technology (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035902)

I personally like going into work. Yes, I have the ability to VPN in, but being in the office removes so many distractions, puts me in the right state of mind, and even though I am in a building full of about 1000 IT workers I still have at least one meeting per day, and it is so much more productive to have everyone there in person then to have to communicate over teleconference or screen sharing.

Now if we all had teleprecence rooms then I would say you are absolutely right, but until that day comes I will commute to the office. But I guess in the end it is just a personal preference.

Re:Mis-application of technology (1)

moderatorrater (1095745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036136)

Communication benefits greatly from gestures, facial cues, and subtle tone changes that can't be transmitted as well if they can be transmitted at all over a digital medium. For instance, if I were to say this in person, the meaning would change drastically depending on whether I was yelling while flipping you off or talking in a relative monotone. Digital communication can't fully replace face to face conversation, so it makes sense that in communication-rich environments telecommuting would be discouraged.

Re:Mis-application of technology (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036156)

"telecomumting" = growing flowers remotely?

All humor aside, agreed.

Except there are a LOT of jobs that require personal presence, and carpooling has its limits.

Re:Mis-application of technology (1)

smallshot (1202439) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036264)

telecommuting is not for everyone though, this can be for everyone who does not or cannot telecommute.

I think it's a brilliant application. I'm not so sure the fuel consumption, travel time, and congestion are the greatest benefits. But imagine telecommuting from your car, getting in an extra hour or more of work every day instead of spending it driving. you could go home earlier, or just get more done in one work day. It would even allow people to commute greater distances without feeling like half their day was wasted. Or you could catch up on some sleep... as long as it's not illegal.

Funny coincidence (4, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035512)

The plan is called "Sartre". My first reaction: What if there's No Exit?

Re:Funny coincidence (1)

trb (8509) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036050)

Hell if I know.

Re:Funny coincidence (3, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036210)

Hell, apparently, is other drivers.

Does not compute (1)

grozniy (1274944) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035548)

Talk about a massive pile ups when hackers get into the software controlling the platoons. Professional driver of the lead vehicle may also cause problems while texting, drinking coffee and reading a newspaper all at the same time. Also, defeats the purpose of having a car - driving on your own... If you want to be in this type of a setup, take a train.

Tailgating to the max (2, Insightful)

Saryn (1674856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035550)

This seems like it could be pretty bad if there was an accident.

road trains are stupid. (4, Interesting)

girlintraining (1395911) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035556)

You're handing control over to another driver, who may very well decide not to brake and cause a five car pileup, or worse. Also, there's no way to know the mechanical status of the vehicle -- what if one of them blows a tire, or runs out of gas, or the engine seizes?

What you should do is create a dedicated lane that is controlled entirely by computer, and you program your exit/entry point at that time, and let the signal and control computers handle traffic management. If an unauthorized vehicle enters the lane, sensors will immediately detect it, alert nearby drivers (and disengage), and send the police to go catch captain speedy pants and send him to a pants-down facility. Computers also do a much better job of fuel consumption and control... I mean, it'd basically be a packet-switched network, but with cars instead of pieces of data. It's a relatively benign IT problem.

As well, vehicle breakdowns would be handled a lot better because the system would be tied directly to the onboard computer and navigation systems: Just like lorries/semi-trucks operating on the road today. Having spoken to a commercial truck driver, I can tell you that the computer often knows about mechanical problems before the driver does, and their systems are pre-programmed to alert a dispatcher, who will send a rescue/repair vehicle out in situ.

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035666)

I remember reading that induction loops were placed under Motorways (Freeways) in the UK in the 50's, to allow remote control of vehicles using the road. M4 is in the front of my mind, but I could be wrong.
Sodding problem is I can't find any reference to it :-(

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

mdmkolbe (944892) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035676)

there's no way to know the mechanical status of the vehicle

the computer often knows about mechanical problems before the driver does

So which is it?

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

blankinthefill (665181) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035684)

What you should do is create a dedicated lane that is controlled entirely by computer, and you program your exit/entry point at that time, and let the signal and control computers handle traffic management. If an unauthorized vehicle enters the lane, sensors will immediately detect it, alert nearby drivers (and disengage), and send the police to go catch captain speedy pants and send him to a pants-down facility. Computers also do a much better job of fuel consumption and control... I mean, it'd basically be a packet-switched network, but with cars instead of pieces of data. It's a relatively benign IT problem.

Yeah, but remember, packet collisions are an ingrained part of network management. Makes the idea a BIT more scary :P

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035702)

I've seen at least half-a-dozen deer on the roads in the last couple of weeks. How is this going to work when one decides to run right through the middle of the train?

No chance in hell I would be a part of this.

Re:road trains are stupid. (3, Interesting)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035912)

I've seen at least half-a-dozen deer on the roads in the last couple of weeks. How is this going to work when one decides to run right through the middle of the train?

Well, I imagine what would happen is that the driver about to hit the deer would brake hard. The computer would relay this braking information to the following vehicles so they would all brake at very nearly the same instant. The problem that arises is that different vehicles have different braking capabilities, so if the vehicle about to hit the deer can brake harder than one of the vehicles coming behind, then we'd end up with a collision, maybe even a chain of collisions.

Ideally, the vehicles in front should have their braking artificially limited so that it doesn't exceed the braking ability of any following vehicle. If that were done, then the computers could ensure that collisions in the train don't happen.

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

schnikies79 (788746) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035968)

You assume they would paying attention. From the article:

"Those in following vehicles could take their hands off the wheel, read a book or watch TV, while they travel along the motorway."

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

swillden (191260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036474)

You assume they would paying attention

If they aren't paying attention, and don't brake, then there's even less problem. They'll be moving a little faster when they hit the deer, true, but generally the amount of braking you can do in such a situation doesn't make much difference anyway, and that way the vehicles behind won't have to worry about braking hard.

The vehicle that hit the deer will be badly damaged and have to come to a stop, but it won't be such a rapid stop that the rest of the train behind it can't slow.

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036104)

If that were done, then the computers could ensure that collisions in the train don't happen.

Of course that makes collisions worse with any vehicle or obstruction in front of your 'train'... like, say, some wacko terrorist who steals a truck and then slams on the brakes in front of you.

This whole 'road train' idea is just stupid for so many reasons that I'm surprised that anyone other than 'private transport is evil' commies keep trying to defend it.

Re:road trains are stupid. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035794)

So you want a dedicated lane, which won't be built until you have participants, but you won't get your dedicated lane until there are participants. Classic chicken and egg stuff.

These folks have actually thought of a way out of that trap. It only requires that the participants have special equipment - it can grow from something small, and then maybe have dedicated lanes some day.

From something smalll ... just like your sig says ...

Re:road trains are stupid. (0, Troll)

allknowingfrog (1661721) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035840)

If you actually read the article, they explain that the goal of this program is cost-effectiveness, and that implementing the network you just described would be too expensive.

Re:road trains are stupid. (0, Troll)

vlm (69642) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036182)

You're handing control over to another driver, who may very well decide not to brake and cause a five car pileup, or worse. Also, there's no way to know the mechanical status of the vehicle -- what if one of them blows a tire, or runs out of gas, or the engine seizes?

Seems the trial lawyers will make a lot of money. Or perhaps the end users get screwed. Or, most likely, both?

What if the "lead driver" rides the brakes, thus smoking my brakes/warping my disks?

What if something falls off / out of a car ahead of me (a more common occurrence than you'd think), can I quickly escape the train, and who is liable when by design I can not?

What if the guy in front of me is one of those smokers whom flicks ashes all over my car ventilation system? Bonus points if I'm allergic / asthmatic? Or an unmaintained beater pumping my car full of particulates, unburned hydrocarbons, and carbon monoxide? I bet an unmaintained diesel could literally kill someone, maybe not the driver, maybe a passenger, maybe a sleeping baby... What if a driver in the train passes out from the CO fumes, or has a heart attack or whatever, is everyone in front of him just dead meat when he plows into them?

What if the lead driver successfully goes thru a big puddle, flooding my intake and blowing my engine, and then I'm crashed into by the remainder of the train?

What if its typical winter weather conditions, with patches of ice/snow, my car is ordered to brake, but I spin out of control into other vehicles because my individual car was on a patch of snow/ice/sand at that instant? Or just simply plow into the vehicles in front of me, whom can't accelerate out of the way because they are now temporarily on an icy patch?

What if, being the ridiculously hyper-paranoid USA, the lead vehicle is a terrorist/rapist/pedo/filesharer (according to my TV, aren't they all the same?)

What if, the lead vehicle routes us thru an area that is ethnically incorrect, and the police pull me over (the crime of Driving While Black in a White Neighborhood, etc).

What if a vehicle is carjacked while in a train, is the lead vehicle liable? What if the lead vehicle was working with the carjackers?

What if the lead driver drives over a pothole fast enough to set off my airbag, but not his?

What if the lead vehicle makes a minor traffic error that results in no physical problems, but some legal problems? Like not slowing down for an unmarked speedtrap? Everyone gets a ticket, only the lead, maybe the system designer or manufacturer or dealership? Who pays for the higher insurance?

I would think adding this feature would result in a spectacular car insurance bill...

Re:road trains are stupid. (1)

cdn-programmer (468978) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036278)

I mean, it'd basically be a packet-switched network, but with cars instead of pieces of data. It's a relatively benign IT problem.

What a great idea! Why not simply have Mr Speedy Pants organized into a packet that gets lost in transmission? The one that gets resent after the NAK can look alike but its still a new packet but perhaps without the hidden corruption!

Re:road trains are stupid. (5, Funny)

Arthur Grumbine (1086397) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036400)

I mean, it'd basically be a packet-switched network, but with cars instead of pieces of data.

Hey! Here on /. we use car analogies to explain computer technology - not vice-versa!!

road trains are *awesome* (1)

Interoperable (1651953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036404)

You're handing control over to another driver, who may very well decide not to brake and cause a five car pileup

The following cars are electronically linked in, they would also brake and the whole train would come to a stop. As long as each car (including the lead) was restricted to brake at the same rate as the car with the worst stopping time no collision would ever occur. Besides, if the distance between the cars is small enough, even a discrepancy in braking power that wasn't compensated for would only cause a slight difference in velocity before a collision occurred. The impact would be minimal unless the last vehicle was a truck with failed brakes; but TFA states that trucks would be at the front.

At the end of the day, we all put our lives in the hands of every other driver on the road anyway. Same thing if you ever get on a bus. As long as the systems were reliable I doubt it would add too much extra danger.

Eventually we'll get reliable remote control from the highways themselves though and then travel will be *awesome.* I envision a system where traffic light controlled intersections are replaced by precision timing. Cars would be staggered by about two cars lengths as they approached the intersection and would be timed such that they could pass through the intersection at full speed without colliding. Of course, the drivers would have to be removed from the loop entirely and every vehicle would have to be completely reliable. If it did work though, could you imagine passing mere meters from other vehicles travelling perpendicular to your vehicle all at a couple hundred km/h? Of course by then we'll all have jet-packs anyway, right? Right?!?

Wifi reliability (1)

trimpnick (1362187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035564)

If this thing is as reliable as my wireless router, there will be a lot of accidents

Re:Wifi reliability (1)

Finallyjoined!!! (1158431) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035774)

Haha, you bought a Linksys or Netgear, didn't you?

Quality!

Re:Wifi reliability (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036218)

Yeah, I could see that. Everyone's on channel 6, and every car is called "linksys".

Buy it now (1)

wsanders (114993) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035624)

You can already get this tech if you splurge for an S-class Mercedes:

http://www.benzinsider.com/2008/06/distronic-plus-and-brake-assist-plus-reduce-rear-end-collisions-by-20/ [benzinsider.com]

It would be a cool DIY project, too. Don't tell your insurance company.

Re:Buy it now (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30036408)

It would be a cool DIY project, too. Don't tell your insurance company.

Not sure that's a good idea. My policy says I must notify the insurance company of any modifications to the vehicle or the policy isn't binding.

Good general idea, but implementation... (1)

Tx (96709) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035678)

FTA: Each road train could include up to eight separate vehicles. [...] The lead vehicle would be handled by a professional driver who would monitor the status of the road train.

This sounds like a major obstacle to me. One professional, presumably paid, driver to every eight vehicles sounds expensive and pretty impractical. What are they going to do, have you queue up somewhere waiting for one of these lead drivers to come along? I think that's taking the whole "train" analogy too far, one of the reasons I like driving is that I don't have to wait for a damn train. For this kind of thing to really work, I'd have thought the ideal would be not to have a lead driver at all, but to form ad-hoc trains. I.e. vehicles interrogate each other to find out if they're going on the same route, and automatically join the "train". I'd assume that cars with this sort of technology would be speed limited, at least while leading a train, so that shouldn't be an issue.

Mr Robinson speculated that those joining a platoon or road train may one day pay for the privilege of someone else effectively driving them closer to their destination.

And a further kicker. As far as I'm concerned, these road trains would be a very diminished driving experience. I expect to pay less in return for helping the environment and reducing road congestion, not more. Give me a reduction in my road tax or something in return for participating, and I might be interested.

Re:Good general idea, but implementation... (1)

FlyingBishop (1293238) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035980)

  1. In the diagram, the lead driver is a truck, so it seems natural that the cost of the driver would be partially subsidized by shipping. 1:8 isn't that bad a figure for trucks to cars already on the road. So there's already a ready supply of professional drivers, who probably could handle a few cars in tow without too much effort.
  2. Naturally, for this to work, the cost would have to work out to be about half the fuel savings, so you would still profit. You also don't have to do as much driving.

Re:Good general idea, but implementation... (1)

Sique (173459) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035984)

This sounds like a major obstacle to me. One professional, presumably paid, driver to every eight vehicles sounds expensive and pretty impractical.

No, the driver is not there to wait for cars wanting to form a road train. The professional driver is there because he has to drive the route anyway, transporting freight or whatever. Road trains will be formed spontaneously, when someone decides to join the truck and tailgate it. And as soon as the leading truck is heading somewhere else, you are free to leave the road train again.

Reminds me of a dream I once had (5, Funny)

The Archon V2.0 (782634) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035688)

The scene: A road that was winding its way along a treacherous landscape (think Wile E. Coyote's home turf).

A generic couple were standing by the side of road, which was basically a piece of flat pavement cut into the side of a mountain. They were watching a garage inventor/scientist type explain his latest invention, a motorized luggage carrier. Sort of a motorcycle sidecar or luggage unit for people who didn't want to change the visual impact of their motorbike. It was an independent unit, had its own motor and fuel, and required only a slight modification to the motorcycle in the form of a radio transmitter. After that, it basically mimicked the motions of the "master" motorcycle.

Garage inventor gets on his bike, fires it up, and drives off. Sure enough, the other device (which I recall looking a lot like a large cooler on wheels) fired up by itself and followed. A few minutes later, the garage inventor loops back and drives by. Getting cocky, he waves at the couple. Unfortunately, he hits a rock and with only one hand on the handlebars, can't recover. He loses control, and drives off the side of the cliff. An unpleasant "crunch" is heard below.

Moments later, the motorized luggage holder comes along and dutifully throws itself off the cliff as well. A second "crunch" is heard.

The couple look down at the carnage and then leave.

Re:Reminds me of a dream I once had (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30036234)

Trotting out not only an anecdote, but a fake anecdote, in an attempt to discredit something you don't even understand. Classy!

Deemed to fail (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30035690)

Europe can't even standardise on a safety system for trains. Hell, they can't even standardise it in 1 single country. The "Betuwe Line" (A dutch project for a transport railway between Rotterdam Harbor and Germany) got delayed for years due to malfunctioning safety systems. And that's a problem with a very limited amount of parties and other variables involved. How will they ever be able to implement such system for cars. And, more, how will you garantuee the system will actually increase safety, not decrease it by some unexpected side effect.

The safest car on the road is one that is parked. Invest in teleworking and other ICT infrastructure, not more roads and fancy projects that will never get adopted.

Fail (1)

benjamindees (441808) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035692)

I agree that this is a monstrosity that no one in their right mind would ever want to use.

But it does seem like a step in the right direction. Instead of carpool lanes which are a stupid waste of time, I'd like to see a major US city devote a lane of all their highways to something interesting like this, only more flexible and safer and automated and efficient and economically beneficial, obviously.

Cue product liability lawsuit in 3... 2... 1 (1)

Locke2005 (849178) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035712)

I believe the reason this will never catch has nothing to do with technology and everything to do with legal liability. Who is going to want to be the front car of the train, when they will obviously be responsible for any accidents? What company is going to want to supply this system and open themselves up to massive lawsuits whenever somebody finds a way to defeat the system and cause an accident?

Re:Cue product liability lawsuit in 3... 2... 1 (1)

Saryn (1674856) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035854)

Who is going to want to be the front car of the train, when they will obviously be responsible for any accidents?

The car in the front is a professional, probably government employed, driver.

Re:Cue product liability lawsuit in 3... 2... 1 (1)

Dunbal (464142) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035946)

The car in the front is a professional, probably government employed, driver.

      Now I REALLY feel safe...

Re:Cue product liability lawsuit in 3... 2... 1 (1)

0123456 (636235) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035970)

The car in the front is a professional, probably government employed, driver.

Somehow being in a 'train' of a hundred cars with a taxi driver at the front doesn't fill me with confidence.

Stepping stone to auto pilot? (1)

HangingChad (677530) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035800)

I'm wondering if this is a workable step to an autopilot for cars? I would pay a lot to be able to hook up to a platoon and sleep a good portion of the trip. But it would seem like this might be workable as an interim step to an in-road sensor system.

The real trick would be making sure the driver was awake before releasing the car from the platoon. And what about the cars behind them? Also don't see how this prevents someone from cutting in between cars in the train.

I was driving ... (3, Funny)

PPH (736903) | more than 4 years ago | (#30035886)

... on I-94 to Minneapolis, but I fell asleep and missed the exit by 150 miles.

Train Wreck (4, Interesting)

smitty777 (1612557) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036016)

OK - imagine this scenario: a train is driving along, and something happens to car number 2/8. Hit by another car, flat tire, accidentally leans on the joystick [slashdot.org] , whatever. The car veers out of control, unlinking cars 3-8. So now you have six cars being manned by people who were sleeping/reading/eating/daydreaming 10 nanoseconds ago.

I'm just sayin, I don't think you could pay me enough to get in one of those trains. Mythbusters did an interesting piece on saving gas by drafting. You could save a great deal of gas, but at great expense to safety.

I see what this is... (1)

jDeepbeep (913892) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036046)

Now the distracted drivers can have their twitter/text/calls/lipstick/ etc and not get pulled over for it.

Theory versus implementation prediction (2, Funny)

bobdotorg (598873) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036082)

Theory: Sartre
Implementation: Kafka

Real Trains? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30036126)

I see no benefit over real trains except that this will work with existing roads.

If the issue is that you want your personal space and you want to drive to/from the train, then the much simpler fix is to make trains that allow vehicle docking. This is actually a much more elegant solution than autonomous vehicle coordination.

Merging and Curves (2, Insightful)

frith01 (1118539) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036140)

How would they expect this system to work at highway Merges ? Another fun thing is inclement weather and curves on the highway. My car can take curves at a much higher speed than a panel truck during high winds.

I can see where this would be useful on long straight highways, but otherwise very dangerous. Each car would also need a "safe return to park" capability which would
cause the cars to park themselves to the side of the road if the central control was lost, and the driver did not respond within a few seconds.

Include a gps unit that would alert people that their turn is coming up, and have the professional driver thing only be for testing , and add that capability to general car system.

Re:Merging and Curves (1)

Foofoobar (318279) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036490)

Exactly. That was my first question too. How do they change lanes also? A Lane change with 20 cars would be IMPOSSIBLE!

Instead, how about... (1)

6Yankee (597075) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036230)

...a luxury coach, with family compartments, toilets, DVD players, all that stuff, and stick a six- or eight-car trailer behind it.

We can do that today.

I've seen this (1)

SnarfQuest (469614) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036354)

I've seen this in operation already.

There was this camper with bicycles attached to the back, towing a car, towing a trailer full of moterbikes and canoes. If that isn't a road-train, I don't know what it should be called.

Who pays if you crash? (1)

drtsystems (775462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30036516)

So of course the question that would keep anyone from joining this... who pays for damages to your car if the professional driver crashes YOUR car??

Load More Comments
Slashdot Account

Need an Account?

Forgot your password?

Don't worry, we never post anything without your permission.

Submission Text Formatting Tips

We support a small subset of HTML, namely these tags:

  • b
  • i
  • p
  • br
  • a
  • ol
  • ul
  • li
  • dl
  • dt
  • dd
  • em
  • strong
  • tt
  • blockquote
  • div
  • quote
  • ecode

"ecode" can be used for code snippets, for example:

<ecode>    while(1) { do_something(); } </ecode>
Create a Slashdot Account

Loading...