A Software Controlled Car Increases the Simplicity of Long Distance Tandem Driving

A Software Controlled Car Increases the Simplicity of Long Distance Tandem Driving

Because the Tesla models are primarily controlled be software, using sensors and network routing algorithms, the feasibility of highway tandem driving now becomes a simple reality.

Tandem driving was researched back in the early 1980s at some of the major universities, such as UC Berkeley. Its a technology that allows cars to drive within inches of each other on long stretches of road, such as Highway 5 between Stockton and Bakersfield, California. While 5 to 10 cars are driving together, they can drive much faster, say over 100 miles per hour. Using proximity sensors and software, they can avoid collision and steer as one vehicle.

With the introduction of a software controlled electric car, the motor and battery of all the cars in the tandem could be used as one to maximize speed and efficiency. Using GPS, the driver would simply plug in its destination address, and the car's computer would take of the rest; just as a packet with a destination IP address travels across the Internet.

The computer in one of the tandem cars would be designated as the "Tandem Controller". It would take control and manage the usage of all the motors and batteries in the tandem to maximize their efficiency and determine when a charge is needed.

Depending on origin and destination, a single car may be apart of several tandems in route to its ultimate destination.

The benefits of this type of free-way driving are increased speed, safer driving, increased efficiency, reduced driver stress, more human interaction. It would essentially be a hybrid between the current highway system and high speed rail.

Let's do it!

cloroxbb | 10 February, 2013

That would be awesome but unless EVERY car on the road could be added to the tandem chain, it just wouldnt be feasible IMO.

Especially with all the Semi trucks on the road as well.

Its a great concept, but incredibly far from becoming a reality I would guess.

cactusbylin | 10 February, 2013

The tandem would be able to pass slower vehicles, steer, change lanes and slow down when not possible to pass. Tesla likes taking on challenges that are "Impossible". All the technology is available today; you just need to add another software module to the Tesla control system.

cloroxbb | 10 February, 2013

Tesla would also have to add all the sensors too I would imagine. The Model S doesnt even have an adaptive cruise control sensor, blind spot monitoring sensors, proximity sensors (other than key fob) Im pretty sure...

I do love the idea of tandem driving, especially for efficiency and therefore speed, dont get me wrong, I just dont see it happening for awhile.

Im also excited for self driving/parking cars as well!

Pungoteague_Dave | 10 February, 2013

I have a self-parking Prius with a lane keeping function that has a motor to steer the wheels for these functions. It also had adaptive radar cruise control. None of these three functions are available from Tesla even though most luxury cars now have them, at least as an option. These include a lot of software, but also require substantial hardware that is placed throughout the car, including cameras, servos, mechanical switches, motors, radar devices etc. There is zero chance this technology can be retrofitted to existing Tesla vehicles, much less full self-driving.

olanmills | 11 February, 2013

I think this would only be practical/safe if the cars were equipped to communicate directly (rather than over the internet, for example, via a cellular connection), but yeah, the point is taken. Because the Model S is more software driven than the average car, it seems maybe possible to add a feature like this somewhere down the line, though right now, I don't know if the Model S computer is able to apply the brakes or control steering, and/or if the hardware to do that exists.

kalikgod | 11 February, 2013

Volvo is actively working on doing exactly this.

gammd | 11 February, 2013

Perhaps a better and more realistic app for TM to develop would be the following "Tesla Travel App":

Have the vehicle monitor the charge and consumption from point to point AND continuously identify charging stations along the route (a la "plugshare" or "chargepoint").

Then the driver would be able to continuously determine the best place to stop and optimize the trip.

This last weekend I drove this weekend from Raleigh to Columbia. Had to charge each way at a public (J1772) station. Slow at 19 mi/hr and 30 A. Inconvenient but not a real problem. If such a "Tesla Travel App" also described the power at the locations that would be a real added value.

Had I had access to one of the Tesla network stations the trip would have been identical to an ICE trip.

The 'SuperCharger' network should solve most of these problems.

I had hoped the J1772 statins would be 40 A and 31 mi/hr so my trip calculations were off.
Better/improved public infrastructure would also help this problem.

kalikgod | 11 February, 2013


Check the route for RV parks and call ahead. You are almost certain to get 50 amp outlets there and most are happy to provide it for a small fee.

Brian H | 11 February, 2013

And get an EE friend/contact to build you one of these:

and you can get 80A from RV parks, draining two 14-50s at once!