Self-driving lorries to hit UK roads from next year

August 25, 2017
| Report Focus News

Self-driving lorries will hit motorways across the UK by the end of next year.

Fleets of up to three computer-controlled HGVs will travel in convoy on England’s roads in a bid to test out the technology, the Department for Transport has announced.

Acceleration and braking will be controlled by the lead vehicle, making the others more efficient and lowering their emissions.

But, AA chief Edmund King has warned that the lorries could obstruct road signs and slip roads.

He said: “A three-truck platoon is longer than half a Premier League football pitch.

“We all want to promote fuel efficiency and reduced congestion but we are not yet convinced that lorry platooning on UK motorways is the way to go about it.”

Similar trials have already been carried out in America and across Europe but experts said the scheme may not work on Britain’s already heavily congested roads.

Mr King added: “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.”

RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “Streams of close-running HGVs could provide financial savings on long-distance journeys, but on our heavily congested motorways – with stop-start traffic and vehicles jostling for position – the benefits are less certain.”

The Government has provided £8.1 million funding towards the trials, which are expected to take place by the end of next year.

All lorries involved will have a driver ready to take control if required.

Transport minister Paul Maynard said: “We are investing in technology that will improve people’s lives.

“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.”

The trial is also funded by Highways England and will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory.

Initial test track research will help to ascertain the appropriate distance between vehicles and on which roads the tests should take place.