I read with interest a recent government announcement that self-driving trucks will be running on major UK roads by the end of next year.
These trials will form part of an £8.1 million scheme to test the feasibility of what is known as ‘truck platooning’. The Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) will oversee the scheme which will see as many as three autonomous HGVs running in close formation.
Each vehicle will have a human driver on board able to take control in case of any emergency.
The government believe that truck platooning will be for the benefit of both businesses and road users. Having the vehicles running in close formation means the lead truck pushes the air out of the way for those following, reducing fuel consumption and emissions. It is also claimed that traffic congestion will be reduced.
Not everyone is convinced, however. AA President Edmund King, for instance, said “Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America”.
The Road Haulage Association also expressed concerns. Their Chief Executive, Richard Burnett, said “of course we welcome improvements to the way the road freight industry works and we understand the benefits that such a mode of operation would bring.
“However, currently the focus seems to be on the technology behind the system. Safety has to come first and it cannot be compromised. It is crucial that this element of the concept gets the highest priority.”
I will be watching developments carefully.