Autonomous lorries will be tested on UK motorways from later this year, according to the Department for Transport (DfT).
Platoons of HGVs, led by a driven lorry, with as many as nine lorries following in close convoy, will travel on quieter sections of UK motorways.
The aim of the testing is to find out the effect the lorry convoys have on traffic, as well as how they will work on the UK’s road network. It is believed that the convoys could eventually reduce the emissions and fuel consumption of HGV traffic, and cut the number of accidents involving HGVs on UK roads.
The government wants the UK to be at the forefront of autonomous technology, so this is the latest in a string of planned autonomous vehicle testing schemes.
No exact dates for the testing, or particular motorways, have been selected yet; this will be decided "in due course", according to a DfT spokesperson.
“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,” added the DfT spokesperson.
Neil Greig, Director of policy and research at the Institute of Advanced Motorists, commented: “The announcement raises a lot of questions, and the only way to answer them is with a trial. The M6 would be the best place to carry out the trials because it’s a quiet enough stretch of motorway, and would be suitable for the tests.
"A lot of people are very worried about the HGV trials, their main concern is when they’re about to join the motorway, they will have to negotiate a wall of up to 10 HGVs in the inside lane. A pilot trial will need to happen in order to address these concerns. We await more details later this year of autonomous car trials, and this will give us more information about what to expect.”
The announcement came alongside the DfT’s crackdown on drivers using mobile phones at the wheel. The fine for using a phone while driving has risen from £100 to £150, and the number of penalty points has risen from three to four for car drivers and to six points for HGV drivers.