Truck train arriving soon
By: Dave Robbins
14 April 2016
The first driverless trucks could be on UK roads later this year. That’s what the government is planning, George Osborne making the all-important announcement in his 2016 Budget speech. It’s all part of a £10m Intelligent Mobility Fund established to look at a range of alternative transport innovations. The plan is for the initial trial to take place on a quiet section of the M6.
Meanwhile, in Europe, driverless vehicles on public roads are already a reality. Headed by the Dutch during their six-month presidency of the EU, the European Truck Platooning Challenge saw five autonomous trucks drive from European cities to Rotterdam. Vehicle manufacturers involved in the project include DAF Trucks, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo. Cambridge-based UK engineering consultancy, Ricardo, have provided
early-stage research and development.
Volvo are one of the leaders in the development of driverless trucks and a participant in the truck platoon challenge. Three of their vehicles drove the 1,500 kilometres from Gothenburg to Rotterdam under wireless control on public roads. Commenting on the platoon’s incident free journey, Anders Kellström, Project Manager for Volvo Group’s participation in the truck challenge said: “We gained a lot of experience, not just about the technology, but about the traffic environment. Everything went totally to plan, which is a great feeling.”
The potential benefits of truck platooning using driverless vehicles are numerous. They include fuel savings of 10-15% with a similar reduction in carbon monoxide emissions. And of course, whilst it’s very early days, it could provide a possible answer to the looming driver shortage.
A survey by vehicle leasing company, Venson, shows that 28% of motorist respondents are excited by the prospect of driverless vehicles. However 30% were concerned that the technology wasn’t quite ready and 34% felt that the public themselves weren’t ready.
Edmund King, President of roadside recovery firm, AA, questions the feasibility of truck platooning. “The UK motorway network has more entrances and exits than other motorways in Europe – and the world. It will be difficult for other vehicles to get past a ten-lorry platoon when they’re entering and exiting motorway junctions.”
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