Self-driving delivery truck tests to 'lower emissions and fuel costs'

The driverless delivery of goods in Britain moved a step closer to reality today (25 August) as the Government gave the green light for trials of partially self-driving HGVs.

Trials are expected on major roads by the end of 2018

Trials are expected on major roads by the end of 2018

Up to three lorries will travel in convoy on motorways through wireless technology, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. Ministers were keen to alleviate safety concerns, insisting that all vehicles in the “platoon” will have a driver on hand to take control.

The technology could bring significant benefits for public health and the environment, according to the Department for Transport (DtT). Lorries driving close together could see the front truck reduce the air resistance for following vehicles, lowering emissions, while improving efficiencies and air quality.

“We are investing in technology that will improve people’s lives,” Transport Minister Paul Maynard said. “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.”

Trials are expected on major roads by the end of 2018. The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) will carry out the pilot, with funding provided by the Department for Transport and Highways England.

“Investing in this research shows we care about those using our roads, the economy and the environment, and safety will be integral as we take forward this work with TRL,” Highways England chief executive Jim O’Sullivan said.

Autopilot

The £8.1m project follows a Government-funded feasibility study which examined the benefits of viability of platooning. Successful trials have already been carried out in Europe and the US.

In March, the Government launched the first phase of a £100m investment in the development of driverless vehicles with a new competition supporting the creation of testing infrastructure.

Car manufacturing businesses are starting to realise the potential for an upcoming autonomous vehicle revolution. At the start of the year, Tesla announced autonomous technology has been rolled-out to all vehicles fitted with second-generation autopilot hardware.

Swedish car manufacturer Volvo Cars last year revealed that it would be trialling an ambitious autonomous driving (AD) system in the UK in 2017, while, automotive giant Ford last summer announced plans to roll-out fully autonomous vehicles, in high volumes, by 2021.

George Ogleby


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