Convoys of partially self-driving trucks on UK roads
The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) was awarded the project to test semi-autonomous truck platooning on UK main roads. The government announced that an £8.1 million study will be funded to fully trial the system on UK roads.
Up to three autonomous trucks will travel in convoy, connected by Wi-Fi. In the platoon, the lead vehicle will be controlled by a human driver, who will communicate wirelessly with the rest of the platoon.
The technology allows trucks to drive closer together than they could with human drivers. Moreover, the lead truck pushes air out of the way, making the following trucks more efficient, hence saving fuel and reducing emissions. The initiative from the UK government to fund this new technology follows successful trials in Europe and the US.
"The government announced that an £8.1 million study will be funded to fully trial the system on UK roads."
According to the Freight Transport Association, these trials will enable to evaluate if platooning will improve road safety, congestion on the road network and the environment. The president of the Automobile Association argued that platooning on UK motorways would be a challenge, considering that the UK has some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many exits and entries.
However, Transport Minister Paul Maynard argues that these tests were necessary to trial if platooning is to be a safe and effective solution for trucks on UK roads.
Trials on major roads will start by the end of 2018, though for the time being the TRL will begin trials on test tracks.