Are self-driv­ing lor­ries com­ing to the UK?

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Self-driv­ing lor­ries may con­jure up im­ages of the de­monic truck in Steven Spiel­berg’s Duel, but the re­al­ity might not be quite as ter­ri­fy­ing. The govern­ment has an­nounced that ‘par­tially driver­less’ lor­ries will be on UK roads be­fore the end of next year, and that the Trans­port Re­search Lab­o­ra­tory (TRL) is test­ing a num­ber of “pla­toons”.

Re­as­sur­ingly, hu­mans will be in con­trol of the steer­ing of the semi-au­ton­o­mous ve­hi­cles, which will travel to­gether in close for­ma­tion in groups of three. A hu­man driver will con­trol the lead ve­hi­cle, with ac­cel­er­a­tion and brak­ing mir­rored by the other lor­ries us­ing wire­less tech­nol­ogy.

Trans­port min­is­ter Paul Maynard said that be­cause the front ve­hi­cle pushes air out of the way for the oth­ers, us­ing self-driv­ing lor­ries could lead to more ef­fi­cient travel and low emis­sions. The AA, how­ever, has raised con­cerns about the ef­fec­tive­ness of the sys­tem on UK roads, warn­ing that a con­voy could block road signs for other users.

“We all want to pro­mote fuel ef­fi­ciency and re­duce con­ges­tion, but we are not yet con­vinced that lorry pla­toon­ing on UK mo­tor­ways is the way to go about it,” said the AA’S pres­i­dent, Ed­mund King, not­ing the num­ber of ex­its and en­tries on the UK road sys­tem. “Pla­toon­ing may work on the miles of de­serted free­ways in Ari­zona or Ne­vada but this is not Amer­ica.”

The govern­ment orig­i­nally pro­posed a trial of semi-au­ton­o­mous lor­ries back in 2014.

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