The government has announced that partially driverless lorries or small conveys will be tried on UK roads by the end of next year.
The Netherlands has already trialled this technology on a small convey where the lead truck had control of the second.
The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has been awarded a contract to carry out these tests on what they refer to as a ‘platoon’ of vehicles.
The test is expected to include up to 3 HGV’s where the lead lorry controls all the acceleration and breaking.
The AA has said that the ‘platoons’ do however raise safety concerns.
The TRL will very shortly start testing on test tracks with road trials expected at the end of 2018.
The read lorries will not be completely human free in the trials. The lead HGV will control acceleration and breaking being mirrored to the rear HGV’s but with the initial tests, steering will be controlled by a human.
There is also a benefit to emissions and air pollution. As the ‘platoons’ will be travelling closer together, it can be expected to see that the lead vehicles pushes air out of the way for the rear vehicles improving their fuel consumption. With less risk on company’s HGV Insurance and reduced fuel costs, it is hoped that these saving will be passed onto the consumer.
The government has been promising such projects since 2014 but has been met with hurdles in the form of many European countries refusing to take part in ‘platooning’ trials.
The partners announced to participate in the project are:
– DAF Trucks made by Dutch Manufacturer.
– Ricardo which is a British smart tech transport firm.
– DHL which is a German logistics company.
‘Platooning Vehicles’ is not new and has been seen in a number of other countries such as Japan, Germany and the US.
Edmund King, president of the AA has said that British road provide a unique challenge not seen in other countries.
Edmund’s stated: “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,” he said, pointing out, for example, that small convoys of lorries can block road signs from the view of other road users.
“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,” he added.
It goes without saying that safety has to come first but, could this revolutionise the UK haulage industry reducing costs for all across the UK?