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."