According to The Sunday Times, the UK is looking to test autonomous cargo trucks beginning in 2015. These automated trucks, or “lorries” as they are called across the pond, would grant a single driver the ability to lead a convoy of cargo filled vehicles.
The lorry in front would still driven by a human, while their controls would be shared with all other vehicles in the convoy via Wi-Fi, so the group would move as an homogenous train. A driver would sit in the cab of each lorry, but they will not be required to control the vehicle unless there is an emergency or unpredictable traffic build-up, for example.
This report comes just a few weeks after the UK announced it was planning a test run of self-driving cars on their roads as early as next year. Though this further exploration of automated driving has some worried about road safety, the UK Department of Transport explained in a recent statement to the press, “Road safety remains of paramount importance and will not be compromised.”
The convoy idea was first tested on a regular public road in Spain by Volvo as part of the European Commission’s Safe Road Trains for the Environment project back in 2012, though in that case the lead truck was followed by three regular cars. Motherboard notes that driverless trucks have already been piloted on closed roads by Daimler in Germany and Scania in Sweden, while the Netherlands has unveiled plans to introduce driverless lorries in its Rotterdam port.
Backers of the proposal believe the system would enable drivers to use their laptop, read a book or even “sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch.” In addition, advocates also say these automated convoys would cut down on road congestion and diminish fuel consumption by nearly 10%. The trials are slated to be held on tracks in Britain, and if successful, could potentially be extended to quieter motorways overnight.