The future of trucking: Following the leader?

SartreI’m a self-admitted and unabashed tech junkie. Every morning before work I peruse any number of gadget-related Websites to stay abreast of emerging consumer-electronics technology and hardware. Once in a while, my personal and work interests intersect, as they did this morning.

Imagine a “train” of vehicles traveling down the Interstate, but instead of drivers attentively looking down the road with hands at 10 and 2, they’re working on their laptops, reading the newspaper or doing other busy work. Sound far-fetched?

Maybe not. In a recent road test through the Spanish countryside, three Volvo cars following a Volvo truck – all linked together wirelessly – completed a 124-mile journey as part of the latest demonstration by the Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE), a project spearheaded by Volvo. While the truck driver is responsible for physically (and mentally) driving, all data such as road speed, steering and braking is relayed wirelessly to the trailing cars, which automatically adjust and follow suit.

Imagine this application in a truck convoy- you put your best-performing driver in the lead tractor followed by two or three other tractors with “attendant drivers,” enabling you to multiply the fuel efficiency and performance of the lead driver. While such technology will likely never see its way into the U.S. trucking industry (can’t you just imagine Ray LaHood’s objections to this!), its always fun to imagine the potential of new technology in our industry.