Self-driving lorry platoons to be tested in the UK

Published: 25 August 2017

The UK government has announced that platooning of lorries will tested on British roads by the end of 2018.

The platoons will comprise three lorry convoys with a driver in the lead vehicle controlling braking and acceleration wirelessly, although human drivers will steer all the vehicles. Platooning means that the lorries can travel closer together reducing air resistance and improving fuel efficiency creating savings for haulage companies.

The UK is following Germany, the US and Japan in testing the technology.

RAC roads policy spokesman Nicholas Lyes commented: “We broadly support the Government’s commitment to a thorough and independent phased trial to examine the safety and feasibility of lorry platooning. However it is vital that every step is taken to ensure that the public are made fully aware of the details of these tests to give them confidence that the technology will be safe in practice. It is also important that drivers are aware through signage that autonomous platoons are on the carriageway – seeing manned lorries driving very close to each other could be a disconcerting sight in a high speed environment. It is vital that system checks and processes also reduce any likeliness of a catastrophic breakdown amongst any of the lorries.

“The principle offers clear benefits in helping to reduce congestion at the same time as lowering emissions and fuel costs. However, the safety of all other roads users must always be the priority and guiding principle of a robust trial.”

Road Haulage Association CEO Richard Burnett added: “Of course we welcome improvements to the way the road freight industry works and we understand the benefits that such a mode of operation would bring.

“However, currently the focus seems to be on the technology behind the system. Safety has to come first and it cannot be compromised. It is crucial that this element of the concept gets the highest priority.”