Autonomous lorries get go-ahead

The government has announced that small convoys of semi-autonomous lorries will be trialled on British roads by the end of next year.

The trials will see up to three lorries travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. The ‘platoon’ tests will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) which will commence trials on test tracks initially.

The news has been met with a mixed response. Edmund King, president of the AA said, ‘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.’

Steve Gooding, director, RAC Foundation echoed King’s thoughts. ‘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,’ he said.

Platooning has been tested in a number of countries around the world including the US, Germany and Japan.