‘Self-driving’ lorries to be trialled on UK roads

Written by Anthony Strzalek

The UK government has given the green light to an £8.1 million trial which will see partially self-driving lorries tested on British roads next year.

The Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England have commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to test the ‘platooning vehicles’ with trials expected on major UK roads by the end of 2018.

Platooning involves two or more vehicles connected with ‘vehicle to-vehicle communication’, allowing them to effectively communicate with each other and operate as a single unit.

The platooning trials will see up to three heavy goods vehicles, 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.

When the lead vehicle brakes the following vehicles automatically brake with zero reaction time, significantly increasing road safety. The constant controlled speed is expected to deliver fuel savings and environmental benefits through the reduction of CO2 emissions, whilst the ability to decrease the distance between vehicles increases road network capacity.

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.”

Rob Wallis, chief executive of TRL, added: “The UK has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in trialling connected vehicle platoons in a real-world environment.

“TRL and its consortium of leading international partners, have the practical and technical knowledge gained from previous projects to understand what is required to put a connected vehicle platoon on to UK roads safely. The team are now taking that expertise and uniquely applying it within live traffic operations.”