Road Trains Make their Debut on a new Platform

The successful experiment to drive a remote controlled convoy of vehicles in normal traffic conditions will give motorhome insurance providers food for thought over the next few months as news of the experiment becomes more widely known.

The experiment took place on a Spanish motorway on the outskirts of Barcelona and was conducted by the Safe Road Trains for the Environment group (SARTRE). SARTRE was formed just three years ago and consists of many top names in the motoring field including Volvo. The aim of the group is to radically change the concept of driving in Europe and they predict that inside the next ten years remote controlled vehicles will be commonplace all over the world.

The idea behind the scheme is that one professional driver at the head of a vehicle train will guide the cluster of vehicles behind him by a wireless remote system. The other vehicles will imitate exactly the actions of the lead vehicle and their drivers will be basically redundant. SARTRE believes up to 15 vehicles could tag onto a road train and the drivers in the other vehicles could read, sleep, play games or talk on their mobile phones. They say a road train will be safer as human error is massively reduced, but SARTRE believes there are many other advantages. The speed of the convoys can be set at optimum fuel efficiency by the lead driver and he can also set the distance between vehicles causing a tail gate effect which will cut down massively on wind resistance and once again save fuel. The saving of fuel will also mean carbon emissions will be cut.

The experimental convoy in Spain was made up of two lorries and five cars and coped with the conditions magnificently. The convoy idea is bound to have its attraction for motorhome owners who often travel long distances to get to destinations. The thought of tagging on to a convoy and getting a relaxing break will appeal to many. And that is where insurers will have to make decisions. How will they set a motorhome insurance premium on a vehicle that may be driven normally 98% of the time but want to attach itself to a remote control convoy the other 2%? It is question many insurers will be facing more often in the future.

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