British government to fund trials of semi-automated truck convoys

In 'platooning', the driver of the lead vehicle controls the acceleration and braking of the other lorries

British government to fund trials of semi-automated truck convoys

Picture by: Silas Stein/DPA/PA Images

The British government has announced that it will fund trials of semi-automated truck convoys.

So-called 'platooning' would see up to three lorries travelling together - linked together wirelessly - with acceleration and braking controlled by the human driver of the lead vehicle.

A feasibility study of the technology explains: "When a vehicle is platooning, the automated system will control the distance to the preceding vehicle by automatically controlling the engine, gearbox and the brakes.

"It will also automatically control the steering so that the vehicle follows the preceding vehicle."

However, a human driver would be sitting in each of the vehicles, and would be able to take over control at any time.

Proponents of such technology argue that the front lorry would be able to push air out of the way, therefore allowing the other vehicles in the convoy travel more efficiently.

Initial trials will be carried out on test tracks in order to prove the technology's safety, with trials on major British roads expected by the end of next year.

The British government is providing £8.1m (€8.8m) for the trials.

The UK's Transport Minister Paul Maynard argues: "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."