An autonomous car test was carried out in Spain last week by Project SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment). Working with Volvo, they have developed a reliable ability for cars to join with a “platoon” of other cars following the leader. While part of the group, the car completely takes over driving, keeping a 10 to 50 ft distance from the car in front of it. In this test, a truck and 3 cars traveled 125 miles over the course of the day, using public highways at a cruising speed of about 53mph.
The project has three primary aims: convenience, safety, and efficiency. Obviously, being able to work or read or any number of things on long commutes is handy. Also, because a lot of people do that sort of thing anyway while driving, the system would be able to alleviate the danger of human error (to some degree). By allowing the cars to follow each other much more closely and maintain safety, it also increases the ability to save fuel through drafting. The amount of fuel saved is the focus of their next set of experiments.
Those moments you realize we live in the future.