Boffins at driverless technology labs around the world have been working overtime for a while now. After Audi showcasing the chauffer-less A8 which negotiated its way through Berlin traffic to successfully deliver movie star Daniel Brühl, to the swathes of fans and press cameras at the Berlinale Film Festival and the initial testing of Googles’ self-driving car, they have now moved on to driverless trucks.
It has been reported that trials would take place on the M6 near Carlisle later this year. The Department for Transport said the UK would "lead the way" in testing driverless "HGV platoons", under plans to speed up deliveries and cut congestion. It’s understood that as many as 10 trucks will form a convoy, which will be connected wirelessly and driven closely together. Every single truck is expected to have a driver present however steering, acceleration and braking will be controlled by the lead driver.
Paul Watters, head of roads and transport policy for the AA, said “Motorists will certainly be very nervous about the prospect and will need considerable reassurance that it will be safe. Motorways are pretty congested in the UK, they are about the most congested in Europe, and there will be problems in how they access and exit the roads.”
Richard Burnett, chief executive of the Road Haulage Association also mirrored Paul Watters comments saying "“The technologists have it all to prove. A lot of the elements of this that make it theoretically possible are already starting to arrive in modern vehicles. But are motorists ready for the technological advances that will make this concept possible?” - "In addition to the concerns of the motorist, is platooning practical for the haulier? Does it make operational sense and, critically, will it be safe practice on UK roads with so many junctions."
The A driverless lorry developed by Daimler which uses a radar and camera sensing system has already been successfully tested on a public road in Germany in October. However the company requires a human driver to be present at the steering wheel and focused on the road.
Chancellor George Osborne is expected to confirm funding for the initiative in his budget next week.