The government is injecting £8.1 million into driverless technology in the UK, which could potentially see self-driving lorry trials on Britain’s roads before the end of 2018.
The Transport Research Laboratory is teaming up with the Department for Transport and Highways England to test the technology, which will see up to three lorries travelling in convoy.
With the vehicles linked by Wi-Fi, the lead driver will be able to control acceleration and braking for all three. Meanwhile, fully licenced drivers will man the other vehicles in preparation to take control in case of any errors of emergencies.
Benefits of the scheme
The government believes that by having HGVs travelling in formation like this, benefits will be felt by both operators and other motorists on the road.
It is believed that less air resistance will act on the following vehicles as the leader “pushes” air out of the way. This allows operators to make savings on fuel and comply with environmental policies, with lower consumption leading to reduced emissions.
Other motorists could also benefit from the use of convoys in this way. Not only will lower emissions help to combat environmental issues that affect us all, but self-driving HGVs could also help to cut congestion on the roads.
The Road Haulage Association has welcomed the news of the testing scheme, but alongside the AA, it has expressed concerns over the safety of automated vehicles.
RHA chief executive Richard Burnett has stressed that the current focus of the scheme “seems to be on the technology behind the system”. He continued: “Safety has to come first and it cannot be compromised. It is crucial this element of the concept gets the highest priority.”
Testing has already proved to be largely successful in the US and throughout Europe. However, president of the AA, Edmund King, isn’t convinced that the UK is suited to the scheme, expressing: “Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada, but this is not America.”