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March 7, 2016updated 05 Sep 2016 7:40am

Fleet of driverless lorries to be tested on UK roads in 2016

News: Chancellor expected to confirm plans for driverless lorries in his Budget next week.

By Joao Lima

Driverless fleets of trucks are set to take to the UK’s roads this year, according to governmental plans set to be unveiled by Chancellor George Osborne in his next Budget.

The vehicles could potentially be tested in convoy on a stretch of the M6 near Carlisle, according to information obtained by The Times.

The plans for the roll out could see up to ten computer-controlled heavy goods vehicles (HGV).

The wireless connected lorries fleet would be headed by a human-driver in the front truck, who will be in control of steering, acceleration and braking for the entire fleet.

As a safety precaution, the HGV lorries will have one driver in the truck’s cockpit who will be able to regain full control of the lorry should something go wrong.

According to the paper, Mr Osborne is planning to fund the project to boost the speed of lorry deliveries in the UK and cut congestion. The driverless lorries are also expected to reduce fuel consumption and improve road safety.

He is expected to confirm the roll-out in his 2016 Budget set to be announced on March 16.

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The Department for Transport (DfT) has said that trials are being planned, however, it has not confirmed the location of such roll-outs and if these will get any funding assigned in the next Budget.

A DfT spokesman told the BBC: "New technology has the potential to bring major improvements to journeys and the UK is in a unique position to lead the way for the testing of connected and driverless vehicles.

"We are planning trials of HGV platoons – which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel – and will be in a position to say more in due course."

The potential rollout of driverless trucks in the UK is, however, not an industry first. In October 2015, developer Daimler successfully trialled a driverless Mercedes-Benz Actros HGV in a German motorway reaching speeds of up to 80km/h.

In Nevada, US, Daimler has also started to test its driverless Freightliner Inspiration truck, prior to tests in a closed German circuit where the truck covered over 16,000Km.

Edmund King, president of direct saving company AA, said that the trial of driverless trucks could work in other countries, yet in the UK some questions remain.

He said: "The problem with the UK motorway network is that we have more entrances and exits of our motorways than any other motorways in Europe or indeed the world, and therefore it’s very difficult to have a 44 tonne 10-lorry platoon, because other vehicles need to get past the platoon to enter or exit the road."

He said the "only feasible place" to trial the plans would be the M6, north of Preston towards Scotland, because it "tends to have less traffic and there are slightly fewer entrances and exits".

In the UK, driverless car technology is confirmed to start trials this Summer in Greenwich. Last month, the Government awarded £20 million to eight different projects to develop and understand the impact of driverless cars in the UK.

Alan Coad, GM EMEA at Pivotal, told CBR: "The automotive industry is undergoing radical transformation, with an increasing consumer appetite for ‘connected cars’ and a more interactive driving experience.

"There is still work to be done though, before the connected automotive industry can be called truly autonomous. Without the ability to collect real-time data and analytics on a grand scale however, the industry will not achieve its goal of total automation."


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