The Department of Transport has been given the go-ahead for HGV platooning trials, which is being jointly funded by Highways England.
A convoy of three trucks will be tested on vehicle control to enable goods vehicles to drive in close proximity and improve fuel consumption. The trial will be carried out in three locations, the first will focus on potential for platooning on the UK’s major roads. Initial test based research will help decide details such as vehicle distance and locations for tests to be undertaken.
A maximum of three HGVs will travel in convoy, with the head HGV in control of acceleration and braking. With Europe already pushing autonomous vehicles, it’s about time to begin trials in the UK for heavy loading vehicles.
Evidence will be collected which is vital to understanding issues such as fuel efficiency and reduced emissions, safety, acceptance by road users, according to the Transport Research Laboratory.
In favour of the benefits, the FTA are eager for platooning to hit the UK. Christopher Snelling, the FTA’s head of national policy, believes the importance of the Government to advance with the trials to acknowledge the benefits.
Delivering on safety
Opinions concerning platooning have been varied from road user organisations so far. With organisations such as Brake, which expressed concerns over how trials should be abandoned in light of moving freight off the roads onto railways.
Amongst Brake’s concerns, are also issues facing potential cybercrime and the safety of HGV platoons. “Motorways are our safest roads and that record must not be jeopardised by any rush towards autonomous technology,” a source from Neil Greig, the organisation’s director of policy and research, confirms.
Greig also called upon the trial to research interactions between platoons and road users, asking how platoons will affect road sign visibility and the use of slip roads.
“The pilot study will need to answer these questions as car and motorbike users will need a lot of reassurance that the systems will not block the inside lane with an extra-long ‘wall’ of trucks”, as stated in a source from Greig. TRL, the DfT and Highways England confirm that safety will be high on the agenda during trials and tests.