UK Politics

Driverless lorries to be trialled in UK

Daimler's self-driving truck took to a German autobahn to prove its capabilities Image copyright Daimler
Image caption Daimler's self-driving truck has been tested on the German autobahn

Driverless lorries are to be trialled in the UK, Chancellor George Osborne is expected to confirm in his Budget speech this month.

The Department for Transport said the UK would "lead the way" in testing driverless "HGV platoons".

The technology enables vehicles to move in a group, using less fuel, it said.

The Times reported trials would take place on the M6 in Cumbria later in 2016, with vehicles in convoy headed by a driver in the leading lorry.

The tests would take place on a quiet stretch of the motorway, it said.

The paper said the plans could result in platoons of up to 10 computer-controlled lorries being driven metres apart from each other.

It said the chancellor was preparing to fund the trials as part of plans to speed up lorry deliveries and cut congestion.

'Very difficult'

Edmund King, the president of the AA, said while such a scheme might work in other countries, he was doubtful it was right for the UK.

"The problem with the UK motorway network is that we have more entrances and exits of our motorways than any other motorways in Europe or indeed the world, and therefore it's very difficult to have a 44 tonne 10-lorry platoon, because other vehicles need to get past the platoon to enter or exit the road."

He said the "only feasible place" to trial the plans would be the M6, north of Preston towards Scotland, because it "tends to have less traffic and there are slightly fewer entrances and exits".

A driverless lorry developed by Daimler has already been tested on a public road in Germany in October.

The vehicles have a "highway pilot" - which can be activated at the press of a button - that helps them avoid other road users via a radar and camera sensing system.

But the company has a requirement that a human driver be present and focused on the road at all times.

A Department for Transport spokesman said: "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.

"We are planning trials of HGV platoons - which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel - and will be in a position to say more in due course."

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