The trials will see up to three self driving heavy goods vehicles travelling in close convoy, with accelerating, braking and steering tasks performed in synchronisation with the lead vehicle, using wireless technology. For these initial on-road trials, all lorries in the platoon will always have a driver ready to take control at any time.
ITS (UK) foundation member the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) will carry out the trials using the Government funding, which comes from the Department for Transport and Highways England.
This follows a Government funded feasibility study which recommended a trial to examine the benefits and viability of platooning. TRL will now lead a consortium of partners including DAF Trucks, Ricardo and DHL.
Transport Minister Paul Maynard said: “Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion. But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials.”
The trial will be carried out in three phases, with the first focusing on the potential for platooning on the UK’s major roads. Initial simulations and test track based research will help to decide details such as the distance between vehicles and on which roads the tests could take place.
The project will also look at issues such as acceptance of platooning by drivers and other road users, implications for future infrastructure, and the commercial case for adoption. TRL chief executive Rob Wallis said: “The UK has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in trialling connected vehicle platoons in a real world environment.
“TRL and its consortium of leading international partners, have the practical and technical knowledge gained from previous projects to understand what is required to put a connected vehicle platoon on to UK roads safely. The team are now taking that expertise and uniquely applying it within live traffic operations.”
Commenting on the announcement IAM RoadSmart director of policy and research Neil Greig said: “The technology exists to implement platooning but in the real world it must deliver real economic benefits to outweigh our safety worries. How will other drivers know which trucks are in a platoon? Will the sight of tailgating trucks be a distraction? Can we still use slip roads and view important roadside signs clearly?
“The public quite rightly also have real concerns in the light of current terrorist attacks and the rise in cyber crime. These are all genuine questions in people’s minds that need to be answered by the trial.”