Platooning HGVs to be trialled in the UK

Trials of platooning HGVs are to begin on UK roads later in 2016. The first tests will be carrier out on the M6 motorway in Cumbria.

Up to 10 ‘driverless’ vehicles will travel in a close convoy together. This will save on drag on the vehicles and improve fuel consumption, reducing carbon emissions. Technology such as radar, cameras and 4G mobile telephony will enable the vehicles to close in within just feet of each other and to drive in convoy on the motorway. Currently vehicles with drivers can only drive within a certain distance of each other at speed, but the regulations will be relaxed with the technology involved due to much faster reaction times on the part of computers against the human driver.

The Department for Transport has confirmed the reports by the BBC and the Times that this is happening but has refused to confirm any details of the trials.

A Department for Transport spokesman was quoted by the BBC as saying: “New technology has the potential to bring major improvements to journeys and the UK is in a unique position to lead the way for the testing of connected and driverless vehicles.

“We are planning trials of HGV platoons – which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel – and will be in a position to say more in due course.”

A driverless HGV has already been developed by Daimler and has been using public roads in Germany earlier this year.

Meanwhile, the Borough of Greenwich in London and the government-backed Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) are organising the the Greenwich Automated Transport  Environment (GATEway) project this year.  Among other things, the GATEway project will include tests in which autonomous vans may be used to “move parcels between either warehouses and shops or stores and homes in south east London”.