Trials of 'roadtrains', where the first car in a line of up to eight vehicles controls the actions of following vehicles electronically, will begin this year.
The system works by linking together cars electronically. The driver in the vehicle at the front would do all the steering, braking, gearchanges and accelerating and his or her decisions would be electronically transmitted to the cars behind.
The technology is being trialled by Safe Road Trains for the Environment (Sartre), using EU funding. Its designers say it would reduce each vehicle's fuel consumption by up to 20 per cent thanks to the aerodynamic efficiency of being tucked in just a few feet behind the vehicle in front.
Initial tests will be conducted at proving grounds in Britain, Spain and Sweden and are expected to last for three years. However, during this trial period the system is expected to be tested on public roads in Spain.
Erik Coelingh, technical director of active safety functions at Volvo Cars, which is involved in the project, said: "This type of autonomous driving actually doesn't require any hocus-pocus technology, and no investment in infrastructure. Instead, the emphasis is on development and on adapting technology that is already in existence."
Initially at least, the lead vehicle in a roadtrain is expected to be driven by a professional driver, such as a taxi or lorry driver, who is familiar with the route.
Cars wanting to join the moving convoy would be able to link up with the rear vehicle while those drivers wanting to leave would signal their intention before taking back control of the wheel. Once they had pulled out, the remaining cars would close up the gap.