It has been reported over the weekend that platoons of driverless HGVs are set to be tested on UK roads, with Chancellor George Osbourne expected to confirm the development in the budget statement later this month.
While it remains unconfirmed, it is believed that a stretch of the M6 in Cumbria has been earmarked for the trials due to it being a quieter area in terms of traffic.
The interest in automated platoons of HGVs stems from the potential benefits. These primarily related to a reduction in congestion as trucks move closely together and therefore take up less space on the roads, a reduction in fuel used by the trucks and an increase in safety, due to the advanced detection systems in place.
Critics have highlighted possible drawbacks, such as safety concerns where a human is not in control, and specifically in terms of the UK, the sheer volume of traffic and the higher number of entrances and exits onto motorways than the road networks anywhere else in Europe.
Individual driverless HGVs have already been tested on public roads, for example in Germany last year with a Daimler truck that featured a “highway pilot” mode that uses a system made up of cameras and radar to avoid other road users and stay in a lane.
Whether the trial is a success or not, what is absolutely clear is that use of more automation is coming to roads around the world. The level of impact seen on the transport industry remains to be seen, but watch this space…