Platoon or convoy driving, the new future?

Every year  the amount of vehicles in traffic keeps increasing which enlarges the ecological footprint of this sector. There are several methods to decrease this footprint. First there can still be further investigations and improvements on the cars itself. On the other hand some declare that there can be a lot improvements when we could change the way people drive. One method is ecologic driving, but maybe a more efficient way is the concept of platoon of convoy driving.

The principle of this concept is quite simple and is already visible in several other domains, for example in cycling. When there is a large headwind you won’t see the riders ride side by side.
Every rider would encounter the same large headwind which isn’t economical, for this reason they form a long line were the ride one behind the other.

But also in nature this concept is applied. Migratory birds which travel every year to hibernate in a warmer climate fly in a special V-structure to reduce the drag and thereby provides the birds with a more economical flight. For this reason the chance that young birds will survive the trip is greatly increased.

This concept could be transferred to cars especially when driving on highroads (Fig 1).
When driving at a speed of 80 km/h with an inter vehicle spacing of 40 m a drag reduction of 20% is already realized for the second vehicle, the third vehicle got a reduction of 30%. These are numbers for a large inter vehicle spacing, results are even better when inter vehicle space is lower.

The question now arises how to organize such a system? To achieve the highest reduction of drag and fuel consumption cars should drive close together at a fixed position achieved with driving at a constant speed. For human drivers this is quite a difficult job because it isn’t always that simple to interact fast on different manoeuvres of the vehicle ahead. Thereby the question arises if autonomic driving could be a solution? If cars could interact which each other and receive information of each other they could adjust easily on changes of surrounding vehicles. People could just set their destination and the car would drive to this location as economical as possible eventually with the aid of platoon or convoy driving. Is this the view we should see in the future?

Do you think this concept will be applied in the future with the aid of autonomic driving?

URL:  https://researchbank.rmit.edu.au/view/rmit:6193/Rajamani.pdf

platoon4

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8 Comments

  1. Sounds interesting. But would it not be to complex to implement? To me it appears that this aerodynamic solution allready exists in the form of a train.

    A second potential problem may be crashes, I can imagine a car crash being much more severe in such a convoy

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    • It would definately be a very complex system to implement, but a few weeks ago there was a reportage on the news of autonomous development in car industry.
      It stated that at the moment already a lot manufacturers are testing this technique with several critical situations, for example when a car needs to deal with traffic lights. If they could realize this technique, that a car could drive fully autonomous in like 5 years I think it’s realistic to say that engineers can develop the interaction with other cars in the next five years.

      When I look to your comparison with the train I think the main difference is the fact that people are more free when the ‘drive’ their car. If they want to go to a certain place they aren’t dependent on the timetable of the trains. The can just step into their car and go wherever they want which gives people a certain freedom. I think this will always be one of the main reasons why ‘riding’ with a car will always exist.

      I understand your last point concerning the crashes, but again if the system is at that point that it would go online there would have been already a lot of safety tests and simulations. When it goes online the possibility of having a crash would be, technically spoken, zero.

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  2. It is an interesting way of thinking indeed. But it would imply a huge adaptation for the automotive industry. Some cars could have this technology and would just start driving close to a random driver. If this driver doesn’t have some kind of adaptation to interact with the sudden car or cars behind him, this means that he is now responsible for every car that follows him. So what if this guy is a bad driver or not suited to drive (alcohol,..). To solve this, all the manufacturers should have some sort of basic technology that interacts with cars from other brands in order to make this idea successful. This sounds practically impossible. Also, like jakobmols says, the crash risk is very high.

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    • I totally agree with your point of view. This is still futuristic thinking. A combination of both is indeed not realizable or it should be that the autonomous systems are of that degree that they wouldn’t follow a human driver when he drives reckless. This can maybe realized with the already existing technique of riding between traffic lines. But it is still futuristic thinking. For this reason I think it is easier that there should be a generalized market at a certain point where every car manufacturer has this autonomous system in there cars. But on the other hand is this generalization not a good point for competition between manufacturers because all the systems should have the same level, how can they distinguish themselves then from other manufacturers?

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  3. Why wouldn’t you combine both your ideas? Drive to the “highway” where you match up with the speed of a train-like, really long vehicle and just drive on it? It’s very aerodynamic yet you still retain your ability to drive off at intersections and get to your destination in a very fast way. Although this futuristic concept would mean a major overhaul of our transportation network, which might not be feasable in the next few decades, in places with a developing network like Asia or in remote countries this system could very well be feasable? And this way you avoid using complex sensor systems on every car AND get more ecologically friendly at the same time.
    (I have no source for this as I just combined your ideas into something new, let me know what you think?)

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  4. I know what you mean, but if somekind of a train would ride on the highway it needs to stop at every exit, because new cars need to jump on the train. How long will it wait, because cars will continuously ride on and off the highway. So for me it looks like it is just the same principle as a train so people still loose some of their freedom. It would also be very slow if the train needs to stop at every exit on the highway. So for me I think it is not efficient.

    But I totally agree with the fact that this kind of system is futuristic and won’t be for the next few decades.

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  5. The whole point of my idea was to NOT let the “train” slow down, cars would have to drive the same speed as the “train” in order to be able to drive onto it. Once on the train they can shut down their engines.

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  6. Ah oke now I get it! That’s indeed a quite ambitious solution. I think it could work, but still will take several years to accomplish due too it’s large complexity.

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