I thought I had posted this here before, but I cannot find it.
I'm gonna start this idea off with semi trucks. It can work with cars too, but I think it will be implemented faster with semi trucks because companies can save big mountains of money this way.
What if there were a class of semi trucks that had an onboard computer and special bumpers so that the semitrucks could effectively (safely) connect. And then you get 40 semi trucks all in a row buzzing down the interstate - all connected together.
Suppose you called each truck "C5 capable". Each C5 capable truck would have a computer and bumper/connectors to facilitate this. A C5 capable truck could approach another C5 and they could connect. If they normally got 8mpg, while connected, they might each get 12mpg. And if there are ten trucks, it could be possible that each truck then gets something like 30mpg. With 30 trucks it might be 35mpg.
I would imagine that with the computer assist and with laws, that the convoy might have to travel at 1mph under the speed limit. Thus allowing other trucks to catch up and join. A driver could choose to join and save a lot of money on fuel, or continue to go solo and get somewhere a little faster.
When taking this idea into the realm of cars, I think an awesome thing is to consider the electric car. The best electric cars have a range of 250 miles. So they are good for local stuff, but not so good for extended trips. Especially since getting a recharge could take hours. So if your goal is to drive 1000 miles in one day, an electric car becomes impractical. Suddenly the fossil fuels propelled vehicle is more attractive. On the other hand, if your electric car is, say, C7 capable, you can chain up with other C7 capable cars. And your range might get extended to something like 1200 miles. If you were attempting a cross country trip, you could get your car recharged at your hotel/motel/inn that night.
I suspect that a lot of my numbers here are wrong, or have room for improvement, but I think this is a beginning. It would be cool to see if I am not the first to think of this and there are other pages on the web about this.
Huge problem with trucks you are not addressing is the whip factor. Even with only three trailers attached they begin to do a whip which can grow under the right circumstances and flip the truck. But even before that happens the tail (remember playing whip on the playground at school?) will begin to snap and whack other cars on either side, and things along the road side.
I have no proof, but logic would suggest a line of cars would do the same.
This is why track, as in train track, is so important to the safe functionally of a long line of items.
might be tricky to get out if you're in the middle! Completely out of my realm of expertise, but why not work on expanding rails to reduce the number of T.trailers? But pfft, trailer trains would be so much cooler!
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I've thought of this too. Every time I sit to explain the reasons that this won't work, I am overwhelmed by all those reasons.
The slim version is that trucks are governed at different speeds and all are going to different places going different speeds with different weights. When you pull multiple trailers the heaviest trailer goes in front. When you exchange trailers - the heaviest goes in front.
Passing a 40 truck C5 convoy would be a nightmare for grandma and for many others.
You might make a case for one specific company that had one specific route that they always ran everyday to run close to avoid the wind drag that eats mileage, but even this presents problems. Freight sometimes goes one way instead of both ways. For an instance some cities are easier to get a load to and hard to get a load out of. (It is easy to get a load to El Paso and harder to get a load out of El Paso).
If you continue this train of thought, you might want to limit it to a specific area that has back and forth freight every day and to one company of trucks and a deal with a company in city A and company in city B.
Saint Louis and Kansas City would always have freight going both ways every day. If you could find a company that has a company in St. Louie and another branch in K.C. then a truck company that crunched the savings numbers and and insurance company that wouldn't eat up all the savings by higher rates and truck drivers that were qualified to operate multi trailers and the Dept of Transportation to write new rules and over come the rail road's (deep pockets) of objections..................it would be easier to put the trucks on flat bed train cars.
My conclusion was that an electric system for passenger vehicles would be easier to implement but still way complicated.
If you ever had a little electric slot car track as a kid you might get some ideas for where the energy conscious future thinkers are probably going with interstate travel. Or maybe I am just off track.
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The whip effect is only a problem if the following cars/trucks are not actively controlled. If you look at some articulated buses they can corner where their length would seem to prohibit that. This is because the trailing section rather than being passive has active steering that follows the path of the original tires at the front of the bus. With that type of active computer control a road train is readily achievable.
trains gain efficiency a few ways that are unavailable to highway vehicles 1)steel wheels on steel tracks with very little suspension needed (this is huge tire selection has made 10% economy diference on my diesel vw) 2)cars of similar dimensions close coupled create better airflow than different shapes and sizes
here is an interesting paper on efficiency in terms of load moved per energy used that has a nice breakdown of where the power goes.
Love the idea but the road trains in OZ are scary enough You don't get in their way thats for sure
I'd love to see proper integrated transport though - trains taking trailers to hub distribution points then local journeys done by truck .................. stupid thing is we used to do exactly that; then they shut down most of the rail system that allowed it in the UK - including the biggest distribution hub in the world ............
The scary bit is countries like India with amazing rail networks are seeing freight move to roads and road building getting massive investment !!!
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