Platooning is the “ganging” of cars together for a leg, legs, or entirety of a journey. There are several reasons why a platoon of cars my be formed.
- Drafting: I first because interested in autonomous cars when I realized that cars would save fuel if they could safely draft with one another. I’ll cover this in more detail in another post, and I will just note here that drafting is when a vehicle follows closely enough to a leading vehicle that it is able to save energy by not needing to cut through the air. If you must know more, here’s wiki.
- Road space optimization: A platoon of 4 or 5 autonomous cars may take less space than two piloted cars. This is because humans require a substantial amount of space to react and slow down in the event of an unexpected issue.
- Human Segregation: I only see this being useful during the next couple years, before autonomous cars become ubiquitous. By “segregation,” I mean that I anticipate that it may be required to separate vehicles that are not acting like they have a human driver and the “normal” cars.
- Directions: It may be that there will be some locations that autonomous cars may not be driven to under normal conditions. There are a wide variety of reasons for this.
One of the things I envision about transportation in the future is that we will have our cars a lot closer together in the future. While this happens in bumper to bumper traffic now, in the future most transportation is likely to occur within a few feet of each other, even when traveling quite quickly. I don’t have a strong vision for whether or not strangers’ cars are likely to meet up and allow for conversation. Based on the rarity of spontaneous conversations in regular public transportation, I suspect that occupants of autonomous cars will only interact if they are otherwise acquainted.