Trails to begin
Small convoys of partially ‘self-driven’ lorries will be trialled on UK roads after the government committed £8.1m in funding it was announced today.
Lorry ‘platooning’ trails will see up to three lorries, travelling in convoy, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. All lorries in the platoon will always have a driver ready to take control at any time.
If successful, it is hoped that this technology could have major benefits for motorists and businesses in the UK. Lorries driving closer together could see the front vehicle pushing the air out of the way, making the vehicles in the convoy more efficient, lowering emissions and improving air quality.
Transport Minister Paul Maynard said: “We are investing in technology that will improve people’s lives.
“Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion.
“But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials.”
The Transport Research Laboratory has been awarded the contract to carry out the tests which will initially take place on a test track. The trails are then expected to be carried out on major roads by the end of 2018.
Similar trials have already been successfully carried out in Europe and the United States.
However Edmund King, president of the AA said British roads present a unique challenge and may not be suitable for so called driverless lorries.
“Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America,” he said.
“We all want to promote fuel efficiency and reduce congestion but we are not yet convinced that lorry platooning on UK motorways is the way to go about it.”
“We have more exits and entries on our motorways than any other motorway system.
“So what that means is either the platoon would have to break up at entries or exits or indeed, pull over, and that could cause problems for drivers in other cars trying to get on the motorway or get off.”