Lead driver of the convoy would control braking, acceleration and steering
Technology allows convoy's 10 other lorry drivers to relax while on road
Supporters of the plan say it cuts fuel consumption and eases congestion
Motoring organisations warn they could intimidate other road users
Plans follow demonstration of self-driving lorries in Germany last month
By Eleanor Harding, August 17, 2014
The Mercedes-Benz Future Truck 2025 prototype, pictured on a German
Autobahn during a trial last month. It is a major step in an escalating
race to develop self-driving vehicles, like those set to be introduced
During the trial, trucker Hans Luft was relaxing with his hands behind
his head while at the wheel of his 40-tonne heavy goods vehicle. Similar
technology is expected to be tested in Britain next year
Computerised lorry convoys which are controlled by just one driver are set to be tested on British roads next year.
lorries would be electronically linked together, meaning the driver of
the front vehicle could control the acceleration, braking and steering
of the others.
It would allow whole ‘road trains’ of lorries to travel long distances on motorways with only a few yards between each vehicle.
While the other lorries in the line
would still have dedicated drivers, the automated system would allow
them to ‘switch off’ for most of the journey.
an emergency, or at busy junctions, the drivers of the follow-on
lorries would be able to retake control of their vehicles.
of the proposal say the system would allow drivers to use their laptop,
read a book or ‘sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch’. They also say
platoons would cut down on road congestion and cut fuel consumption by
about 10 per cent.
trials would then be carried out on motorways which are heavily
congested to test how well the automated system works in practice.
vehicles would communicate via wi-fi, so that if the lead vehicle
changes speed, the others follow suit. In addition, the movements of the
entire convoy would be monitored by laser sensors and infrared cameras.
News of the British tests
comes after Daimler announced last month that it had run an autonomously
driven truck on a closed section of the German autobahn.
lorry maker Scania has also been testing platoons on Swedish roads
since 2012. This latest plan, devised by the Department for Transport,
follows a trip by officials to Sweden to study the system.
report concluded that similar trials in Britain would be feasible and
ministers are expected to give the green light for them to start next
A government source
told the Sunday Times: ‘There are potential benefits, notably reduced
costs for haulage firms and reduced congestion for motorists, so there
is sense in looking into it.
‘Equally we have to be cautious and ensure that safety isn’t compromised in any way.’
Watters, head of roads and transport policy at the AA, said: ‘It’s a
complicated one and road users will naturally have concerns about it.
‘If the lorries are following each other closely, it might be hard to spot the road signs on the near side of the motorway.
‘Putting it into practice would mean a complete re-design of the signage system.
‘It would also make exit and entry very difficult on motorways, so the convoys would have to separate at every junction.
‘These ideas always need to be looked at, but at this stage I can see some pitfalls.
‘Motorways are the safest roads we have, and we wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.’