Image: TRL, via Twitter.
Small convoys of ‘partially driverless lorries’ will undergo trials on British roads by the end of 2018, the Government has announced.
Unveiled in a press release issued today (25 August), the £8.1m ‘platooning’ trial 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 have a driver ready to take control at any time.
Funded by the DfT and Highways England, the trial will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL). It follows a government-funded feasibility study which recommended a trial to examine the benefits and viability of platooning.
Applying experience gained in platooning projects in Europe and the USA, the project will collect information and independently evaluate heavy vehicle platooning under real-world operational conditions.
TRL says the trials will be tailored to the unique requirements of UK roads and will collate the evidence required to understand issues such as fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, safety, acceptance by drivers and other road users, implications for future infrastructure, and the commercial case for adoption.
The DfT says if successful, the trail will prove that autonomous technology could have major benefits for motorists and businesses in the UK.
The DfT adds that in circumstances where lorries are moving closer together, as is the case with platooning, the front vehicle pushs the air out of the way, making the vehicles in the convoy more efficient, lowering emissions and improving air quality.
Richard Cuerden, Academy director at TRL, said: “Platooning technology has the potential to deliver a wide range of benefits to all road users. The trials will highlight the services that platooning may offer road users and whether these can safely contribute to a reduction in vehicle emissions, improved journeys and greater economic prosperity.”
Paul Maynard, transport minister, 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.”
Category: Autonomous vehicles.