The UK government has announced that it will begin testing self-driving trucks on public roads in Britain next year. Tests of self-driving trucks in Europe have been ongoing for the last two years, and now the Tory-DUP led coalition government have agreed to introduce the revolutionary technology that looks set to transform the transportation industry.
In a statement confirming the commencement of the testing next year, it was disclosed that the self-driving trucks will be wirelessly linked, which allows them to synchronize braking and accelerating in a technique which is known as 'platooning'.
In simple terms, what this means is that in a large convoy of trucks the human driver in the front vehicle controls the braking and acceleration of all the trucks, the synchronized braking enables lorry's to drive much closer together than what would perceived to be safe with human drivers. The system significantly reduces wind resistance, which subsequently reduces fuel consumption.
UK transport minister, Paul Maynard said the cutting-edge technology could curb congestion issues on Britain's motorways and more importantly improve safety in the long-term, but stressed that the technology in the self-driving trucks must be subjected to intensive and stringent testing. Maynard said: "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."
The UK government has voiced its support on self-driving lorry testing since 2014, and has been buoyed and encouraged by successful trials which have been conducted across Europe. Similar testing programs have been launched in both the US and Japan.
Former chancellor George Osborne declared last year the self-driving trucks would be the UK in the 'fast lane' as the government sent the feelers out for tenders on the project. However, many leading truck manufacturers expressed their reluctance to sign-up to the trials. Several major players said they saw no need to try out the technology on UK roads and insisted they were more focused on conducting further tests in their home markets.
The UK government responded by giving £8.1M to Transport Research Laboratory to conduct the trials, using Dutch lorry manufacturer DAF Trucks, Germany global delivery colossus DHL and UK tech firm Ricardo.