Road train technology brings autopilot into your car

Enjoy being in cars but hate the hassle of watching the road and holding the steering wheel? The road train autopilot system could bring us cavalcades of remotely driven cars.

The system really is like a train - a specially designed truck is at the front of the convoy, and it's the only vehicle a person is actively driving. All the cars behind are equipped with special sensors that allow them to follow the truck's precise path, freeing up the would-be drivers to relax, read the newspaper, or watch TV (we can only assume that's coming). In this video, the technology's Swedish designers discuss the first road tests and what they hope to achieve next:

There's a potential environmental benefit to all this too. The hope is that people in the road trains will accept slightly slower speeds as a trade-off for not having to worry about driving. That means less congestion and less fuel consumption. The technology builds on what some cars are already equipped with, such as sensors that warn the driver if he or she is getting too close to an object up ahead. Here's a diagram of a future road train in action:

Road train technology brings autopilot into your car

[New Scientist; images via Volvo]