UK: British government has decided to test small convoys of partially self-driving lorries on major British roads by the end of next year. In this regard, a contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the test of vehicle “platoons”.
As part of the test, up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. In the platoons, the lead vehicle will be controlled by a human driver and will communicate with the rest of the convoy wirelessly.
The following vehicles will be instructed to accelerate and brake by the lead vehicle, allowing the lorries to drive closer together than they could with human drivers.
Lorries driving close together could reduce air resistance for the following vehicles, as the front lorry pushes air out of the way. This could lead to fuel efficiency savings for haulage companies, which Transport Minister Paul Maynard hopes will be passed on to consumers.
The following vehicles could also react more quickly to the lead lorry braking than human drivers can. However, human drivers will still steer all the lorries in the convoy.
The TRL will begin trials of the technology on test tracks, but these trials are expected to move to major roads by the end of 2018. The government has been promising such a project since at least 2014.