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August 18, 2014

Smart Lorries coming to the UK next year

The vehicles will communicate using Wi-Fi, cameras and sensors.

By Amy-Jo Crowley

Automated "road trains" of lorries, which are controlled by just one driver, are expected to be tested on British roads next year.

The latest plan from the Department for Transport would see lorries electronically linked together, allowing the driver of the lead vehicle to control the acceleration, steering and brakes of all the other lorries, according to The Sunday Times.

The automated system would enable the lorries to travel long distances on motorways with four to five yards between each vehicle.

This would allow drivers, who are not in the lead, to use their laptop, read a book or "sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch", according to backers of the proposal.

They also expect platoons to cut fuel consumption by about 10% and ease congestion on Britain’s roads.

The vehicles would communicate via Wi-Fi, allowing the others to adapt to control changes of the lead vehicle, while infrared cameras and laser sensors are used to monitor the movements of all the lorries.

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However, motoring organisations have criticised the idea, warning that the convoys may frighten other drivers and block cars from entering and exiting motorways.

"There are potential benefits, notably reduced costs for haulage firms and reduced congestion for motorists, so there is sense in looking into it," a government source told the Sunday Times.

"Equally we have to be cautious and ensure that safety isn’t compromised in any way."

The plan follows Swedish lorry maker Scania’s has testing of platoons on Swedish roads since 2012 and a year after officials from the Department for Transport went to Sweden to study the system.

Ministers are expected to give the go-ahead for them to start tests next year.

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