Road Trains – Will They Work?

Research is being done to develope a wireless controlled system for forming so-called ‘Road Trains’ on European roads. The general idea is for vehicles to drive within a metre or two of each other along motorways in the future, thus forming a ‘train’. When joining a train, you would hand over complete control of your car to the lead vehicle, who would then make decisions for the entire ‘train’. It is thought this could improve traffic flow on major roads.

Your car would be controlled by radio signals from the lead vehicle, with a form of radar to maintain seperation. While all this is going on you, the driver, could be reading the newspaper or playing games on your laptop.

It may sound like a good idea, but could it possibly work? People being what they are, it may work to some degree, but you see on the road today everyone likes to travel at a different speed to everyone else. For many people there is also the question of trust in the system. Pilotless passenger aircraft are a reality, but who would travel in one? People like to be ‘in control’.

I see road trains every day when I drive on the motorway in Spain because the Spanish like to drive in the middle lane of a three lane highway. Consequently everyone is squeezed into the outside lane trying to overtake. It is a common sight to see the outside lane nose-to-tail, a smattering of cars in the middle lane, and almost nothing on the inside lane except the occasional truck. The story is similar for a two lane motorway, everyone is in the outside lane trying to overtake the car in front.

So this begs the question, would road trains solve this problem? It may do if there are dedicated lanes for this traffic, but otherwise, no! It will also depend on the speed of the train. For some it will be too fast, and for others too slow.

The question of insurance claims also comes to mind. If a train, or part of it, were to be involved in an accident who would bear the blame, insurance-wise that is? Would the lead driver, who controls the train, be liable to pay for damage to all vehicles in ‘his’ train? Something the developers have not thought of yet.

Whatever happens, it is certain that a major shift in people’s thinking and driving habits will be necessary for such a system to work. It’s the old story of; “It sounds good on paper” but in practicality ………?

I’ll leave you to decide.


One Response to “Road Trains – Will They Work?”

  1. In my country those who are planning fluent traffic, do not seem to be aware about real life problems of traffic. I was talking only about my country. Maybe the idea can be possible elsewhere, but I am a little bit skeptic.

    I enjoy driving and driving fast on German highways where there are no speed limits. When thinking that car train will come true one day, so the big question is: “Do we need more than one car model?”

    This was an excellent topic.


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