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Driverless “platoons” to be road tested in UK next year

Published: March 09, 2016 | Cumbria

Automated lorry convoys will take to British motorways this year under government plans to speed up deliveries and cut congestion. UK Chancellor George Osborne pledged last year to invest millions in automated car technology as a way of improve efficiency and reducing traffic congestion.

According to The Times, a stretch of the M6 near Carlisle is believed to have been earmarked for testing the system, which could result in “platoons” of up to ten computer-controlled lorries being driven just metres apart. And the seed of those plans could come to fruition as early as 2017, with a “platoon” of driverless Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) set to be tried out along an unidentified UK motorway.

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Edmund King, the president of the AA, said while such a scheme might work in other countries, he was doubtful it was right for the UK.

“The problem with the UK motorway network is that we have more entrances and exits of our motorways than any other motorways in Europe or indeed the world, and therefore it’s very difficult to have a 44 tonne 10-lorry platoon, because other vehicles need to get past the platoon to enter or exit the road.”

He said the “only feasible place” to trial the plans would be the M6, north of Preston towards Scotland, because it “tends to have less traffic and there are slightly fewer entrances and exits”. A driverless lorry developed by Daimler has already been tested on a public road in Germany in October.

The vehicles have a “highway pilot” – which can be activated at the press of a button – that helps them avoid other road users via a radar and camera sensing system.

But the company has a requirement that a human driver be present and focused on the road at all times.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: “New technology has the potential to bring major improvements to journeys and the UK is in a unique position to lead the way for the testing of connected and driverless vehicles.

“We are planning trials of HGV platoons – which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel – and will be in a position to say more in due course.”

Source: BBC, The Mirror

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