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January 18, 2011


Banbury, England – Somebody once wrote hell is the impossibility of reason….

If you are not in or around the automotive industry you may not have heard of the European Union Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) project. Well not until the last few days perhaps when a Volvo announcement, that it had successfully demonstrated a vehicle road-train system, found its way into the UK media.

Not up to speed on SARTRE well here’s the heads up, after all you are paying out of the 9.1 billion Euros put aside to fund it, and numerous other projects, under the European Commission Seventh Framework Research Programme (2007-2013).

So Safe Road Trains for the Environment.  Here’s a quote from the official EU  document:  “Just imagine leaving home in the morning and, just after joining the motorway, meeting up with a number of other cars which inch up to each other, travelling  at normal speed in a close-formation convoy. After a few minutes you can let go of the steering wheel and spend your time reading the morning paper, talking on the phone or watching the TV, while your car drives itself in complete safety and also saving fuel!”

Yes folks this is road train or platoon driving.  As the EU document continues: “Each platoon will have a lead vehicle that drives exactly as normal, with full control of all the various functions. This lead vehicle is driven by an experienced driver who is thoroughly familiar with the route. For instance, the lead may be taken by a taxi, a bus or a truck. Each such road train will consist of six to eight vehicles”.

Oh and you will get up precisely 7.30am, have two pieces or organic toast and free trade marmalade, before kissing your partner farewell and heading off.

Of course all the self-interested conspiracy behind SARTRE is claiming that it will, relieve traffic congestion, reduce fuel consumption and CO2 emissions, and improve road safety. We are assured that the driver of the lead vehicle will be breathalysed and have cabin-mounted video cameras to make sure that he/she is looking dead ahead and has not fallen asleep.

This, according to the EU, is a “vision of a motoring Utopia”. More a vision of motorcycling hell.

And of course the joke, as ever, is on us.  As EU tax payers we are paying around two-thirds of the cost of SARTRE. The manufactures and EU engineering companies involved pick up the rest of the cost. A nice cosy arrangement that allows them to use the spin-off technology, which this is really all about, to bolster their own coffers while we pick up the tab on an idea that may well never be used. That’s called cost benefit analysis EU style.

Where does the motorcycle fit in to all this?  Question is does it? If not banned then perhaps relegated to urban use, reduced to bike specific inter urban lanes with, of course, intelligent speed adaptation as standard.

Cannot happen. It will if we let it!

Ride safe!

© Back Roads Rider 2011

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Jiminy Cricket permalink
    January 18, 2011 11:04 pm

    I keep saying that they won’t be happy until we all walk around with little red lights attached to a tube stuck up our arses – so that every time we fart, they can fine us for polluting the environment.

  2. Ian Cook permalink
    January 19, 2011 9:32 am

    “spend your time reading the morning paper, talking on the phone or watching the TV, while your car drives itself in complete safety”

    Sounds very much like Mr Dumb-Average Driver right now… apart from the “complete safety” bit, of course.

    This is complete futurology, unless they ban ALL vehicles to which it cannot be retro-fitted, or use separate roads. Now there’s an idea! We could call them “railways”.

  3. Teapot permalink
    January 19, 2011 10:39 am

    If I was a true optimist, I’d hope that we’d have something similar for motorcycles, with, say, Ron Haslam leading us over the snake pass or other great roads. But it’s not going to happen, is it?

    Instead, you’ll be blasting down the outside lane of a motorway, see your exit coming up and…. can’t get there because there’s a road train filling the next 300 metres of the inside lane with no way to safely squeeze between them and exit. Given that I’ve suffered sudden loss of power while in the outside lane of a dual carriageway in the past (thanks a bunch Honda), how would I have dived for the hard shoulder if I was passing a road train?

  4. January 19, 2011 12:51 pm

    Sooo when the first vehicle gets it wrong, mechanical failure say, tyre blow out and swerves off the road and into the ditch, do the others follow?

    Or some kid drops a brick off the bridge that hits the driver’s cab causing a pile it a safer kind of crash?

    As for bikes…who wants to ride on a motorway anyway? I’ll take the back Roads.

  5. Chris R permalink
    January 24, 2011 11:58 pm

    In reality this is the shit that they think will make all our lives easier, less stressful, but why is their way dumped onto us, like we have to live our lives in the ways they deem most suitable, most safe. If this comes of age, human’s won’t have to bother going to work, cos robots will just do the job for them. Screw it, why live at all? Its nice safety and all that, but come on, there is only one thing guaranteed in life, death. Why can’t we live a little before we die, and not get dubbed into the security of a precise life, who the heck wants that?


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