Automotive

UK to trial self-driving truck platoons

The country's first public truck platoon trials will be headed up by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory
The country's first public truck platoon trials will be headed up by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory
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The country's first public truck platoon trials will be headed up by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory
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The country's first public truck platoon trials will be headed up by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory

Truck platooning shapes as an important part of the future of autonomous transport. By having self-driving haulers roll down the highway in tight formation, we could see huge reductions in congestion, accidents and C02 emissions. The UK government has just announced a new trial that will put this type of technology to the test, marking the first time self-driving platoons will be deployed on UK public roads.

The new venture from the UK government follows a number of truck platooning trials to take place around the world. In what was described as a world first, a platoon of trucks crossed national borders last year as part of the EU Truck Platooning Challenge. Daimler has also deployed autonomous truck platoons, while Singapore's Ministry of Transport is preparing for trials of its own.

In essence, truck platooning involves the vehicles being virtually connected to one another and continuously communicating their position, effectively operating as a single unit. Traveling so close together means that they take up less highway space, and trailing trucks can take advantage of the slipstream created by leaders, potentially improving fuel economy by as much as 10 percent.

The new project is headed up by the UK's Transport Research Laboratory and will involve a number of partners, among them logistics company DHL and truck manufacturer DAF. It will begin with a program of driving simulations, driver training and then test track trials in the coming months. On-road trials will kick off some time in 2018 if all goes to plan.

"We are investing in technology that will improve people's lives," said UK Transport Minister Paul Maynard. "Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion. But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that's why we are investing in these trials."

Source: Transport Research Laboratory

9 comments
schmoe90
Here's hoping they'll drive on the right (left) side of the road when they try this out.
MD
BUT.. in many countries, heavy vehicles have to maintain a gap (unless overtaking - in NSW for example it is 60m for all heavy vehicles and 200m for B-doubles and road-trains (following other heavy vehicles)) in order to allow cars and trucks to overtake (slower vehicles) and merge into the traffic safely. This requirement will not be met by the platooning heavy vehicles (trucks) A Platoon could result in a very long line of trucks nose to tail, meaning that faster car traffic cannot effectively use the road (in the case where there are only 2 (or 1) lanes). We will get to a time when there will be "autonomous vehicle only" lanes, and these will operate efficiently (like a "train") while the meat in cages in the manual control "wild west" lanes will have to endure stop-start traffic jams.
VincentWolf
It may improve their mileage but it hassles other cars trying to pass which is basically impossible! They are illegal in America for a reason and it's just so much BS by the same big oil industry type thinking that they own the roads. They don't. Boycott any industry that tries to hog the roads and make it impossible for others to use the roads that THEY are paying for far in abundance than truckers pay. !!
VincentWolf
Here's hoping they come to their sense because platooning is illegal in the USA because cars can't pass them safely---there is no space between trucks to pull into when trying to get around safely and tempers flare resulting in road rage and MORE accidents. Stupid idea to save a few bucks of energy and totally unfair to those driving cars. Trucks don't own the highway.
AndrewCarter
I cannot see the point of this. If 'platooning' is the goal for driverless trucks, in order to take advantage of its supposed benefits. then surely using the railways would be just as effective and quicker. I understand in more remote regions of the world access to a railway system maybe very limited but in the UK this is not the case. If on the other hand it is to develop driverless trucks so they can operate alone and 'platooning' is an added 'bonus' then so be it but I really cant see the sense to develop something to emulate something we already have in abundance.
hkmk23
Robert Louis Stevenson invented this, nowadays we called them trains and run them on a seperate track away from the roads!
Readout Noise
"Robert Louis Stevenson invented this" Robert Louis Stevenson was an author. George Stephenson was the railway pioneer.
Magnetron
I live in England and have to travel from the south coast to Yorkshire (north of England) every week to go to work. I use the A1(M) but it is a rolling roadblock at 56mph because all the trucks want to 'try' to overtake each other but are mechanically limited to 56mph by law. Platooning vehicles will only make this situation worse as the human truck drivers will continue to think they are 'road gods' who can attempt to overtake other vehicles who are doing the same speed as them. After 15 mins-or-so they will pull back in and realise they can't overtake. Cars can legally drive at 70mph but never make it because of the idiots in trucks (lorries). Platooning will make a bad situation worse.
Stephen N Russell
Bring to the US.