The UK Department for Transport (DfT) has approved test trials of automated trucks on the country’s roads in the near future.
The confirmation of the decision has been included in this year’s Budget statement.
Transport Research Laboratory academy director professor Nick Reed said: “TRL welcomes the chancellor’s confirmation of truck platooning trials on the UK’s roads.
“It’s a logical next step following TRL’s work alongside Ricardo for the DfT on the feasibility of operating commercial vehicle platoons.
“A move towards greater levels of automation in trucks could deliver compelling efficiency improvements for both the UK’s haulage industry and transport network.”
The trials will include testing platoons of automated trucks on motorways. It will also examine the effect of platooning to lower accidents rates, carbon dioxide emissions and traffic flow.
To be conducted in the quieter and low traffic sections of motorways, the trial will see platoons of driverless trucks moving in close convoy with a driven lorry at the front of the line.
The UK trial will be conducted to analyse the effect of driverless truck platoons on motorway traffic, and check if the country’s road network can support the technology.
Reed added: “First and foremost, safety must be the government’s highest priority. The technology needs to be proven to be safe before it moves to on-road trials, and thus gradually builds in complexity, to establish the scale of the benefits achievable in the context of real-world driving.
“The precise scope of trials remains to be defined, but we envisage that all vehicles participating in trials will have fully trained and qualified drivers at the controls at all times.
“Secondly, the haulage industry must be closely involved in the trials to examine the practical requirements for platooning in a commercial and operational environment.
“Within this, the needs of drivers must be prioritised. The further training required for drivers of the convoy’s lead and following trucks is important to ensure the safe operation of the platoon, and particular attention must be paid to the in-vehicle information systems that control platoon formation.”
Dates for the trial have not yet been announced by the UK Government.