Let the train take the strain

The days when motorhome owners and campervan fans can really put their feet up on a long journey seems to be getting ever closer thanks to work pioneered by the Volvo motor organisation.

For many years the Swedish motor manufacturer has experimented with setting up Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) and recent trials suggest the days of a motorhome driver tagging on to a phalanx of vehicles all operated by the driver in front does not appear that far away. The idea of a SARTRE is that a motorist confirms his intention to join a convoy of cars via a radio signal and then allows the lead vehicle to take control of his car, once again by a radio signal. From that point the driver of a vehicle in the “train” virtually becomes redundant and can do anything he wants: a crossword, phone home or work on his laptop.

Volvo say the technology is ideal for long motorway journeys and it would seem to be ideal for drivers of vehicles typically covered with motorhome insurance who travel thousands of miles from the UK to continental holiday destinations. According to Volvo the technology would use cruise control systems, already in place on many vehicles, to set a distance between each vehicle in the convoy. The steady control of speed will give the motorist savings of up to 20% in fuel and of course take the stress out of a journey. To leave the convoy a driver just has to alert the lead vehicle by his radio.

Maire Geoghegan-Quinn is a European Commissioner for Research and Innovation and also a supporter of SARTRE. She said: “This technology is a promising example of an innovative approach to making transport greener, safer and smarter. Sometimes we need to look beyond business as usual to arrive at sustainable solutions.”

Although the latest successful trials have taken place in Spain it is anticipated that Belgium and Sweden will be the first countries to take up the idea once approval is given.