'Driverless' lorry platoons will soon be on a motorway near you

UK.gov pours £8.1m into fresh series of trials

By Gareth Corfield

Posted in Internet of Things, 25th August 2017 09:52 GMT

The Transport Research Laboratory will be starting trials of semi-autonomous "platooning" technology, using lorries on UK roads.

Live trials are expected to take place on Britain's "major roads" by the end of 2018, according to a government statement. These will make up the final stage of the project, with the first two being trials on test tracks to determine things such as the best distance between vehicles and identifying roads for trials.

While the initial image this news prompts is probably that of a platoon of networked lorries doing 55.9mph up a single-carriageway hill, the stated aim of the trials is to figure out ways of making the lorries more efficient, saving fuel, "lowering emissions" and "improving air quality".

Transport minister Paul Maynard said in a statement: "We are investing in technology that will improve people's lives. 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 government is spending £8.1m on the project, via the Department for Transport and Highways England. All lorries in the platoon will have a driver at the wheel in case it goes wrong.

"The trial has the potential to demonstrate how greater automation of vehicles – in this instance, HGVs – can deliver improvements in safety, better journeys for road users and reduction in vehicle emissions," added Jim O'Sullivan, chief exec of Highways England.

The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) has plenty of experience with autonomous vehicle technologies. As well as having some of Britain's finest vehicle and software minds pondering the deeper questions around driverless tech, it is also heavily involved with autonomous vehicle software startup Oxbotica's trials of driverless vehicles, particularly an ongoing one in Woolwich, southeast London. ®

Sign up to our NewsletterGet IT in your inbox daily


More from The Register

BlackBerry and Baidu buddy up on autonomous autos

BB's QNX already used by Ford, Apple and Aptiv

BlackBerry's QNX to run autonomous car software

Parts-maker Delphi wants BlackBerry-mobiles on the road in 2019

Microsoft offers cloud to Baidu, gets autonomous car in return

Self-driving project could be a smart move by Redmond

Dumb autonomous cars can save more lives than brilliant ones

Perfect is the enemy of good – RAND Corp think tank

BMW chief: Big auto will stay in the driving seat with autonomous cars

Tech companies will struggle to take over the road

BAE Systems' autonomous research aircraft flies itself to Scotland

Demonstrator dusted off, but will people trust it?

Researchers blind autonomous cars by tricking LIDAR

As I was on the motorway, I saw a man who wasn't there. Then things went pear-shaped

Ghost in Musk's machines: Software bugs' autonomous joy ride

Getting serious before things get serious for self-driving vehicles

Autonomous vehicles inquiry set up in the UK

Farming? Space? Oh the places driverless cars can go

Chinese unleash autonomous airborne taxi

Where's my bloody flying car? Here it is, sort of