People, in particular governments, are always talking about how they want to cut congestion, reduce pollution and ease people's commute. Most have and still are pushing public transport and taxing people off the roads as a short term fix whilst others have continued to investigate other means of letting people have their cars and still keep the politicians happy - this is where "Scalectrix on a large scale" idea crops up. Well, not in Europe. Apparently, we may get "Road Trains", and quite soon too.
Essentially, the idea is several cars, trucks and buses will form a "road train" behind a single lead vehicle which will be driven by a professional driver (I hope he's an F1 driver ;-) ). The lead vehicle will take control and guide the "platoon" allowing the drivers of the following vehicles to put their feet up and do what ever they like without have to worry about driving.
The BBC article conveniently provides some diagrams detailing how it'll work.
The driver's sat-nav indicates that there is a road train ahead that is following some of his/her planned journey.
The driver approaches the road train, which is controlled by a professional driver at the front, and indicates that he/she wishes to join.
The road train takes control of the extra car, pulling it close to cut air drag and save about 20% in fuel consumption.
The drivers can relax until they wish to leave the road train, at which point they signal their intention to the driver at the front.
A bigger gap will be made to allow the car to leave and control of the vehicle will be returned to that driver.
This is a great idea and I'd certainly give it a try, especially on those long drives through France, but I'm unsure about how it'll work in real life. I'm sure it works brilliantly in the trials under perfect conditions, but what about in real life when every plonker is on the road? What happens when the lead vehicle has to stop suddenly for whatever reason? 8 write-offs and a closed motorway? Also how will the insurance companies feel about these? In theory they should like them as they'll know part of the driving will be done by a pro, but when there's a chance for idiot intervention, I'm sure something will go wrong.
If they do manage to address all of these and we do see them roll out, I think I may need to go hire a car to give it a go. If I like it, I may shell out for the bits for my car. Actually, I wonder if you'll be able to hire a "bolt-on" kit. I won't be able to take advantage of the "road train" for most of my driving, but hiring a bolt-on kit for holidays or single long journeys would be perfect.