Convoys of driverless trucks could be trialled on UK roads as soon as next year, with plans to roll them out on quiet motorways in the near future.
Road trains of up to 10 lorries could be controlled by a driver in a single lead vehicle, with the rest of the trucks connected using wifi.
The driverless lorry convoys will travel with tiny gaps between each vehicle, meaning congestion would be cut and fuel consumption improved thanks to decreased air resistance.
While each lorry won’t be totally autonomous – a driver will still be on board to take control in emergencies or at busy junctions – supporters of the system say it’ll allow drivers to relax with a book or enjoy a leisurely lunch while on the road.
The AA, however, has raised concerns – pointing out that it could intimidate other road users, and make joining or leaving a motorway dangerous.
Head of roads and transport policy at the AA, Paul Watters:
“If the lorries are following each other closely, it might be hard to spot the road signs on the near side of the motorway. Putting it into practice would mean a complete re-design of the signage system.
“It would also make exit and entry very difficult on motorways, so the convoys would have to separate at every junction.
“These ideas always need to be looked at, but at this stage I can see some pitfalls. Motorways are the safest roads we have, and we wouldn’t want to do anything to jeopardise that.”
Truck manufacturer Daimler has successfully run a driverless truck on a closed section of the German autobahn, and Scania has been testing them on Swedish roads since 2012.
It is believed that the Department for Transport is looking closely at the plans, with a view to giving trials the green light in 2015.