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Autonomous lorry trials get green light for UK roads

Trials of self-driving lorries are to take to UK roads by the end of 2018, following similar pilots in Europe and the United States.

Speeding vehicles on motorway

The trials could cut emissions and fuel costs.

Funded by an £8.1m investment from the DfT, the ‘platooning’ trials will see up to three lorries travel in convoy, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. The technology could help cut congestion as well as lower emissions and fuel costs, with the latter hopefully leading to savings for consumers.

The trials follows a 2014 government-funded feasibility study which recommended a trial to examine the benefits and viability of platooning.

The trials will see the Transport Research Laboratory lead a consortium of partners including DAF Trucks, Ricardo, who worked with TRL to deliver the feasibility study for the DfT, and logistics giant DHL.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England chief executive, said: “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.”

However Edmund King, president of the AA, said: “We have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries. Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America.”For more of the latest industry news, click here.

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Natalie Middleton

Natalie has worked as a fleet journalist for 16 years, previously as assistant editor on the former Company Car magazine before joining Fleet World in 2006. Prior to this, she worked on a range of B2B titles, including Insurance Age and Insurance Day. As Business Editor, Natalie ensures the group websites and newsletters are updated with the latest news.