The days when you can sit back and enjoy reading the newspaper or eating your breakfast on the commute to work, behind the wheel of your car, has taken a major step closer to becoming reality with news today that the SARTRE project (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) has successfully completed the first test demonstrations of a multiple vehicle platoon.

The test fleet, made up of cars from SARTRE partner Volvo, as well as a lead truck, completed a test drive at speeds of up to 55 mph and no more than 20 feet separating each of the vehicles.

Amazingly, all of the cars in the fleet drove completely autonomously, relying on video and radio technology to keep them in line.

The aim is for the entire road train to be completed this fall, with a total of four vehicles following the lead truck. You may recall that only a year ago the project had just one car following the lead truck.

First established in 2009, the SARTRE project is being driven by seven European partners and is the only one of its kind to focus on the development of technology that can be implemented on conventional highways in which platooned traffic operates in a mixed environment with other road users.

The main advantage of road trains is that it provides the driver with free time to do other things. Road trains also promote safer transport since the vehicle platoons are led by a professional driver, and fuel-efficiency gains as high as 20 percent can be realized thanks to lower drag on each of the vehicles. Additionally, road capacity will also be able to be utilized more efficiently.

There’s no word yet as to when the technology will be ready for the mainstream but this initial project is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year. To read about other technologies being developed to spur on the arrival of autonomous cars, click here.