‘Self-driving’ lorries to be trialled on UK roads after £8.1m government funding

‘Platoons’ of self-driving lorries are set to hit UK roads by the end of 2018 after new government funding to the tune of £8.1 million was announced today.

The platoon will work by putting up to three lorries together in formation, with the lead vehicle controlled by a human and the trailing vehicles connected by wireless technology.

The trailing vehicles – which will all have human drivers in them ready to take control if issues occur – will be able to brake and accelerate in line with the human-led front vehicle. The result, the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL), who is carrying out the tests, hopes, is less distance between vehicles meaning greater efficiency and lower emissions.

The trials will take place in three stages, with initial tests examining the potential for platooning on the UK’s major roads. A government statement added that each phase of the testing will only commence “when there is robust evidence that it can be done safely.”

“We are investing in technology that will improve people’s lives,” said Paul Maynard, Transport Minister in a statement. “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,” Maynard added.

Earlier this month, the government issued guidelines to connected car manufacturers on improving cyber security. As this publication has previously reported, security is often considered an ‘afterthought’ to features when building IoT products.

Previous tests have taken place for driverless lorry platoons in Europe and the USA, with a study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in December last year showing how autonomous trucks could save fuel and cost, particularly if they are tailgating.

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