The UK Government is providing £8.1m (US$10.5m) of funding for trials of truck platooning technology that it hopes could have major benefits for drivers and businesses by slashing fuel costs and reducing congestion.
The platooning trials will see up to three heavy goods vehicles connected wirelessly, traveling in convoy, with synchronized acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle. All trucks in the platoon will have a driver ready to take control at any time. If successful, the technology could have major benefits for motorists and businesses in the UK. A row of trucks driving closer together could see the front truck pushing the air out of the way, making the vehicles in the convoy more efficient, lowering emissions, and improving air quality. The UK’s Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) will carry out the trial, with funding provided by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England (HE). This follows a government-funded feasibility study that recommended a trial to examine the benefits and viability of platooning.
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 test track-based research will help decide details, such as distance between vehicles, and on which roads the tests could take place. Trials are expected on major roads by the end of 2018. Each phase of the testing will only begin when there is robust evidence that it can be done safely. Similar trials have already been successfully carried out in Europe and the USA.
“We are investing in technology that will improve people’s lives,” said UK Transport Minister, Paul Maynard. “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.”
Jim O’Sullivan, HE’s chief executive, commented, “We are pleased to be supporting the government’s ambition for the UK to be a global leader for innovation. The trial has the potential to demonstrate how greater automation of vehicles in this instance HGVs can deliver improvements in safety, better journeys for road users, and reduction in vehicle emissions. Investing in this research shows we care about those using our roads, the economy and the environment, and safety will be integral as we take forward this work with TRL.”