UK may start testing self-driving lorries by 2015
A recent report revealed that automated convoy of self-driving lorries could be tested on UK roads by as early as next year, reports the BBC.
Groups of lorries is said to be able to be controlled by a driver in the front vehicle, as they travel a few feet from each other and are monitored by laser sensors and infra-red cameras. The lead driver of the fleet will be controlling the braking, acceleration and steering of the group.
Even though the lorries following behind will still require their own drivers, the technology will allow those drivers to “switch off” for most of the journey and take some time to sleep, relax, or enjoy their lunch. However, in an emergency, or at busy junctions, the drivers of the follow-on vehicles will be able to retake control.
The initiative is also said to help cut fuel consumption by around 10 per cent and helps ease congestion. The lower running cost will be as a result of reduced aerodynamic drag caused by the convoy’s streamlined formation. The technology is due to be tested on tracks, and if successful, would be extended to quieter motorways during the night.
However, some motoring groups are criticising that such groups of lorries would be “intimidating” to other road users. “For the car user in particular it does pose worries about platooning lorries taking up a lot of space and blocking others out,” Paul Watters, head of road policy for breakdown rescue service AA said, whilst stating that perhaps a dedicated lane may solve this issue.
“It’s a complicated one and road users will naturally have concerns about it,” Watters adds. “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 redesign 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.”
The Department for Transport said in a statement: “No decision has been reached on a trial using this new technology. However, road safety remains of paramount importance and will not be compromised.”