Home > culture, environment, social experiment > Mass Transit of the future?

Mass Transit of the future?

When simple ideas are put together we create an elegant solution.

This article on the BBC talks about an EU-funded project that allows cars on the highway to join a “road train”, letting the driver concentrate on other productive tasks during a commute. Or even relax. What a concept!

Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) is basically a GPS-based system that shows the driver the location of a “road train”. The driver can then join the train with permission from the driver. Using a system of sensors and controls, the car is joined virtually to the train, and is pulled along, till the driver wishes to leave.

In addition to creating a virtual, on-the-spot mass transit system, the road train would also increase fuel efficiency by allowing the smaller vehicles behind the truck to “draft”. I’m wondering if by having a stream of smaller cars behind the truck, the fuel efficiency of the truck itself would improve too due to Coanda effect.

If successful, this could be a huge step towards  creating customized mass transit systems, combining the efficiencies of mass transits without the rigidity and costs associated with them.

Edit: 8/25/2012

The SARTRE project has indeed been launched. Trials are in progress.

  1. November 11, 2009 at 1:13 pm


  2. November 11, 2009 at 3:13 pm

    Hi Victor,
    Thank you for sharing this information and getting it out and onto the homepage of wordpress to help more people see alternatives to current transportation.

    From my study in Social Psychology it sure appears unlikely at this time that people will give up the individual benefit of cars. The road train idea is a possible solution that allows people to keep their personal space.

    One of the biggest benefits would be if it is a safe way for people to travel and remain more relaxed as they do so. The majority of my work is on stress management and I am always delighted to see stress reducing ideas.

    Thanks again for sharing.


  3. Pretty Project
    November 11, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    That is amazing! I had been thinking about this for the last several months and you put in on paper. Well done! 🙂


    • Joe
      November 12, 2009 at 12:58 am

      Please refrain from promoting your “cleverly-disguised” marketing blog via spam comments on every new main-page feature.

  4. JeffR
    November 11, 2009 at 3:49 pm

    A very real possibility… wow.

  5. Opus the Poet
    November 11, 2009 at 5:18 pm

    As for will the truck see any benefit from aerodynamics the answer is yes but not from the Coanda effect. The benefit for the truck is filling in the wake behind reduces the effect of it on the truck, putting something in the vacuum reduces the force of the vacuum. There is still some energy loss because of the turbulence of the air coming off the blunt end of the the truck but filling in the wake helps reduce that also.

    There was a lot of study done on this problem both in NASCAR and in bicycle racing, 2 passions of mine.

  6. Drew
    November 11, 2009 at 5:34 pm

    This is a great idea, one of the biggest benefits of taking “conventional” mass transit is being able to read or work while riding. The one flaw I can find is that this still has the problem of cars in general: they take up too much space. In a dense city center, trains and buses will still pay a crucial role – unless we can make a road train composed entirely of smart cars.

  7. freedomactionnow
    November 11, 2009 at 6:23 pm

    I’d hate to think of what would happen if the truck in front got into an accident.

  8. Rob
    November 11, 2009 at 9:32 pm

    Right, an accident, or if a driver falls asleep anywhere in the train and suddenly becomes the lead car.

    • Kevin
      November 11, 2009 at 9:50 pm

      Yeah, maybe they could implement a sort of reputation/reliability kind of thing where you could see the reliability of the lead driver before joining.

  9. November 11, 2009 at 11:08 pm

    so interesting…I shall say thank you.
    My blog is simple hope can bring it a stride in advance.
    I would love to receive your advice and suggestions.
    keep your chin up,

  10. matt
    November 11, 2009 at 11:37 pm

    This is not mass transit.

  11. Sam Coster
    November 12, 2009 at 1:11 am

    Always thought it’d be awesome to have cars in urban areas hooked up via wireless to a master computer of sorts which could take over the driving. It’d kill traffic and allow for this sort of thing while controlling for accidents at the same time. Can’t wait for this stuff to become real, but, at the same time, hope I always have the opportunity to manually drive a car at ‘ludicrous speed’.

  12. David
    November 12, 2009 at 2:33 am

    So what happens when you want to exit the highway and you’ve got a choo-choo of 15 cars in a tailgating conga line blocking the right lane? Do you slow down to 30 MPH in the left lane until the caboose passes you? Do you speed up to 85 MPH and cut across 2 lanes and cut off the truck at the last minute? If you want to exit, must you travel in the exit lane MILES before your exit?

    Nice concept, but it’ll never happen. for that matter, none of these “smart-highway” ideas will ever work.

  13. Brad
    November 12, 2009 at 5:20 am

    Cool. This could reduce the high amount of distracted drivers that are on the road. Although like the others said…one crash and its a huge pile up.

  14. November 12, 2009 at 5:23 am

    Lots of logistics and I don’t think the technology is quite there yet, but it is definitely a start. The thing I like the most about it, is you get to keep your own personal space.

  15. warlock6
    November 12, 2009 at 9:10 am

    aha-ha!!!! a very nice idea indeed!

  16. blackenedgreen
    November 12, 2009 at 9:11 am

    I was really excited to read the explanation, but after reviewing what others are thinking about it, I don’t think it is practically applicable yet. The idea is quite brilliant in it self but i think it requires some tweaking, that in the end might bring in a different concept altogether.

    As simple as what freedomactionnow had stated, it is a very important aspect to consider, besides, I assume we don’t have enough free roads anymore to make it feasible. But that’s just my assumption. I really more interested in changing our conception about transportation, and ultimately in the concept of private cars… but i lack the ability to think productively.


  17. November 12, 2009 at 10:11 am

    Wonderful idea! In this way road accident can easily reduce!

  18. November 12, 2009 at 11:45 am

    I don’t agree, only for the fact that humans are creatures of habit. They will get used to not paying attention and just stop paying attention altogether when driving. Of course, that’s not much different than how it is now, eh?

  19. Ricardo Pizarro Iturrieta
    November 12, 2009 at 12:51 pm

    I think it’s a fantastic idea, it seems to me that one of the problems largest occurring on the roads today is congestion vehicle, so if we work together to improve or implement these projects should be welcome, I applaud your article

  20. November 12, 2009 at 2:57 pm

    I always thought that highways should be flat-line-escalators (like in airports) so when you merge onto them you can actually turn off your car (save fuel, more environmentally friendly) and glide along at the same pace as everyone else until you have to cut off, in which case you’d easily glide your car towards the exit.


  21. November 12, 2009 at 3:34 pm

    David :
    So what happens when you want to exit the highway and you’ve got a choo-choo of 15 cars in a tailgating conga line blocking the right lane? Do you slow down to 30 MPH in the left lane until the caboose passes you? Do you speed up to 85 MPH and cut across 2 lanes and cut off the truck at the last minute? If you want to exit, must you travel in the exit lane MILES before your exit?

    I too had the same doubt…

    Other than that…. this is an amazing concept, and kudos to the ones who came up with this…

  1. November 12, 2009 at 5:07 am

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