Driverless lorries to be on UK roads from next year, say ministers

Posted On: 
25th August 2017

Driverless lorries are to be trialled on UK roads before the end of next year, the Government has announced.

Platooning vehicle tests are to begin in 2018
Credit: 
PA Images

The £8m programme will see a limit of three vehicles in close convoy, with one driver in control of the lead vehicle.

The trailing “drones” will be controlled by computers while all three will be linked electronically, communicating via radar, GPS and wifi.

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Supporters of the technology said it had the potential to drive down costs and cut carbon emissions as well as boost road capacity. 

Roads minister Paul Maynard said the programme, which has been previously tested in mainland Europe and the US, could prove a “win-win”.

"We believe this system has the potential not just to save fuel and therefore emissions, but also to reduce congestion on our roads", he said.

"It's potentially a win-win all round, and this investment is to ensure we are at the forefront of this new technology.

“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 short distance between the trucks is thought to reduce air drag in a bid to cut fuel consumption and emissions, while trials in the US have added that it could stop other vehicles cutting in and disrupting the connection.

However Edmund King, President of the AA, said the “platooning” of three vehicles could obscure road signs and routes to other traffic.

"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,” he said.

“A platoon of just three HGVs can obscure road signs from drivers in the outside lanes and potentially make access to entries or exits difficult for other drivers.   

“On the new motorways, without hard shoulders, lay-bys are every 1.5 miles. A driver in trouble may encounter difficulties trying to get into a lay-by if it is blocked by a platoon of trucks going past."