Cars that are capable of driving themselves could become a reality within a decade, thanks to a new EU-sponsored project.
The plan is to create cars that are capable of driving themselves in convoys under the control of a driver in a lead vehicle.
Cars in the convoy would travel with small gaps between them, cutting both fuel consumption and CO2 emissions by up to 20%.
When a car approaches its chosen exit, the driver will retake control and move out of the convoy, with other vehicles then moving up to close the gap.
Both Volvo and British-based engineering consultancy Ricardo are partners in the project, dubbed SARTRE (SAfe Road TRains for the Environment), which aims to dramatically reduce CO2 emissions.
First test cars on track for 2011
Despite its futuristic ambitions, the team behind SARTRE say the technology that underpins the project is almost entirely developed, with the first autonomous cars due to take to the test track in 2011.
‘This type of self-driving vehicle doesn’t actually require any hocus-pocus technology and there’s no development in infrastructure,’ says Volvo’s technical director Erik Coelingh, ‘it can all be done by developing and adapting existing technology.’