UK set to test self-driving lorries

The part-driverless vehicles will see a convoy travelling together but human drivers will still do the steering

Two trucks demonstrate "platooning" technology at the Navistar Proving Grounds in New Carlisle, Indiana, U.S., October 12, 2016. REUTERS/Jim Young/FILE PHOTO
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Britain is set to conduct road trials of self-driving trucks, involving a "platoon" of vehicles controlled by a driver in the front.

The Department for Transport said on Friday that up to three trucks will travel in convoy, connected by Wi-Fi and with braking and acceleration controlled by the lead vehicle.

Officials say the formation saves fuel and reduces carbon emissions, because the lead truck pushes air out of the way, making the others more efficient.

Similar trials have been conducted in Europe and the United States. But critics say driverless trucks are unsuited to Britain's often narrow and winding roads.

Automobile Association president Edmund King says "platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada, but this is not America."

According to the the BBC, Transport Minister Paul Maynard hopes the fuel efficiency savings that haulage companies will benefit from will also be passed on to consumers.

Experts say the vehicles may be able react more quickly when the lead lorry brakes than human drivers can.

However, human drivers will still be steering all the lorries in the convoy.


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According to the BBC, the trials will begin on test tracks before moving to major roads by the end of 2018.

"Platooning" is one of the latest buzzwords in the overland freight industry. The technology is an area one of this region’s - and the world's - biggest operators is keeping a close eye on.

Bassel El Dabbagh, the chief executive (Abu Dhabi) of the Kuwait-based logistics major Agility, told The National last month that the promise of such systems offers more than just the realisation of a sci-fi nerd’s dream.

“It is definitely an innovation that is keeping everyone in the industry very excited and trying to see how they can adopt it,” he said.  “There are improvements [via platooning] on several fronts; efficiencies, cost reduction, health – lower emissions, it’s great.”