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Vehicle Platooning and Automated Highways

September 23rd, 2010 · No Comments

The eight-vehicle platoon demonstration at the National Automated Highway Systems Consortium Technical Feasibility Demonstration, held in San Diego from August 7-10, 1997, successfully demonstrated the technical feasibility of operating standard automobiles – Buick LeSabres– under precise automatic control at close spacings, at highway speeds. Riders experienced real travel in a fully automated AHS vehicle, and were shown that comfortable, high-capacity, automated travel is technically feasible in the near future.
The platoon demonstration was designed by researchers at the California PATH program to show how vehicle automation technology can be used to make a major contribution to relieving traffic congestion. The eight Buicks operating in tight coordination showed how an automated highway system can provide a significant increase in highway throughput (vehicles per lane per hour moving along the highway).
Since platooning enables vehicles to operate much closer together than is possible under manual driving conditions, each lane can carry at least twice as much traffic as it can today. This should make it possible to greatly reduce highway congestion. Also, at close spacing aerodynamic drag is significantly reduced, which can lead to major reductions in fuel consumption and exhaust emissions. The high-performance vehicle control system also increases the safety of highway travel, reduces driving stress and tedium, and provides a very smooth ride.
At Demo ’97, the eight vehicles of the PATH platoon traveled at a fixed separation distance of 6.5 meters (21 feet) at all speeds up to full highway speed. At this spacing, eight-vehicle platoons separated by a safe interplatoon gap of 60 m (about 200 ft.) and traveling at 65 mph would represent a “pipeline” capacity of about 5700 vehicles per hour. Reducing this by 25% to allow for the maneuvering needed at entry and exit points corresponds to an effective throughput of about 4300 vehicles per lane per hour. Throughput under normal manual driving conditions at this speed would be approximately 2000 vehicles per lane per hour.

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