A recent announcement from the government will see new wireless technology trialled on the UK’s major roads, designed to slash fuel costs as well as congestion.
The new technology is able to synchronise accelerating, braking and steering, and will see lorries ‘platooning’, seeing three HGV’s travelling in convoy controlled by the lead vehicle. Each lorry will have a driver ready to take over if needed.
The Government is investing £8.1M in the trials, hoping to see major benefits for motorists and businesses in the UK. Benefits from ‘platooning’ include better efficiency for the lorries in the convoy, with the front vehicle pushing air out of the way and streamlining the followers. This, in turn, helps lower emissions and improve air quality.
Transport Minister Paul Maynard said: “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.”
The Transport Research Laboratory will carry out the trial in three phases. The initial phase will assess the potential for platooning in the UK, and on which roads, with track based research helping to pinpoint details such as distance between vehicles.
Road trials are expected by the end of 2018, upon assurance that it can be done safely. Similar trials have already been successfully carried out in Europe and the United States.
Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England Chief Executive, said: “We are pleased to be supporting the government’s ambition for the UK to be a global leader for innovation.
“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.
“Investing in this research shows we care about those using our roads, the economy and the environment, and safety will be integral as we take forward this work with TRL.”
Rob Wallis, Chief Executive, TRL said: “The UK has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in trialling connected vehicle platoons in a real-world environment.
“TRL and its consortium of leading international partners, have the practical and technical knowledge gained from previous projects to understand what is required to put a connected vehicle platoon on to UK roads safely.
“The team are now taking that expertise and uniquely applying it within live traffic operations.”
Funding for the trials has been provided by the Department for Transport and Highways England.