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UK roads set to test
© David Anstiss

UK roads set to test ‘self-driving’ lorries

25/08/17Government

Small convoys of partially driverless lorries will be tested on major roads in the UK by the end of next year, the government has announced.

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has been awarded a contract to carry out the tests of vehicle ‘platoons’.

Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle.

However, the head of the AA said platoons raised safety concerns.

The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, but these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018.

The lead vehicle in the platoons will be controlled by a driver and humans will also control the steering in lorries to the rear – though acceleration and braking will be mirrored.

Lorries driving close together could allow the front vehicle pushing air out of the way, making the other vehicles more efficient and lowering their emissions.

This could lead to fuel savings for companies that will hopefully be passed on to consumers, Transport Minister Paul Maynard said.

Platooning has been tested in a number of countries around the world, including the US, Germany and Japan.

However, British roads present a unique challenge, said Edmund King, president of the AA.

King 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 some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries.

“Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.”

Pan European Networks Ltd