Automated tailgating that allows cars to drive much closer to each other in heavy moving traffic, could save fuel and cut greenhouse gas emissions, according to two researchers at the University of Jadavpur, Kolkata.
To test their theory, Debojyoti Mitra and Asis Mazumdar from the university's Mechanical Engineering Department investigated the drag on platoons of four vehicles in the university's vehicle test wind tunnel.
They found that cars moving in the same direction separated by a meter or so reduced drag and consequently saved fuel.
"The leading car in the platoon experiences the highest drag as you would expect but no more than if it were driving alone. The second car has a much lower drag coefficient than the first car in a two-car platoon. The middle car experiences the lowest drag in a three-car platoon and the third car in the platoon, starting from the front, experiences the least drag in a four-car platoon," said Mitra.
According to the two, adding sensors and safety controls that allow vehicles to drive at such a small separation would make automated tailgating a real possibility.
"As populations grow and the number of vehicles on the roads in cities and motorways across Europe, North America and the developing world, rises, traditional ways of tackling the problem, such as simply building more roads or improving public transport are becoming less and less effective," said Mitra.
"Automated highway systems are one of the many approaches that have been suggested to tackle the problems," he said.
The findings appear in the current issue of Inderscience's International Journal of the Environment and Pollution.