Britain’s motorways are about to look very different if the latest news from the Government and Department for Transport are anything to go by. The news this week is that the Government have set aside an impressive £8.1million for the specific purpose of trialling convoys of semi-automated HGVs on Britain’s roads.

Semi-Automated Trucks

This means we can expect to see these groups of HGVs engaged in ‘platooning’ as they test the conveying method on our roads – something that was previously considered inefficient in Britain compared with mainland Europe and the USA.  Platooning involves trucks driving very close behind one another, in an automated process overseen by wireless technology. Once the vehicles reach the junction they are destined for, the human driver will take over control of the vehicle, guiding it on the smaller roads until it reaches its destination.

 

The close proximity of these trucks to one another on the motorway means that all HGVs behind the leader save fuel by following in the slipstream of the vehicles in front of them. The result is a cost saving on fuel for the haulage companies, as well as lower emissions to help the environment.

semi automated hgv

It was previously thought that the UK would not be a good place to use this method, due to the close proximity of the junctions to each other. Each time the convoy reaches a junction, it will have to break up to allow other cars to pass between the HGVs. While this might mean the convoys can travel long distances in other countries, in the UK it would be far more frequent, meaning experts doubted whether the method would be appropriate.

 

But now the Government has confirmed these trials, we’ll be able to find out once and for all whether these semi-automated vehicles really are the future of transport in the UK as well as elsewhere around the world. It’s thought that the convoys in the UK will be no more than three vehicles long, with the lead vehicle providing all the control with regards to setting the speed, braking and steering. This process will be completely automated, but with a driver ready to take over whenever needed. The £8.1million will go towards some professional trials of this combination of technology and human drivers, although we don’t yet know when the trials will begin, but they will be underway by the end of 2018 at the latest.

semi automated lorry

It’s hoped that the trials will lead not only to fuel savings and emission reductions, but also to the combating of congestion on the roads. Although we know that HGVs are a minimal cause of congestion, any help to reduce the traffic on the roads will be welcomed by all drivers.

 

It’s not the first time this kind of scheme has been promised, with a 2016 announcement of a trial falling flat when no HGV company was ready to take part. We hope to see this trial go ahead, and we’ll be reporting on any updates and outcomes as soon as we know more.

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