Autonomous 'road train' truck convoys set to start trials in the UK later this year

By midian182 ยท 6 replies
Mar 7, 2016
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  1. Self-driving vehicles are on their way; but while attention is usually focused on autonomous cars, such as Google’s upcoming effort, the technology will also make its way into other modes of transport, such as trucks.

    According to the UK’s Department for Transport, the country will “lead the way” in testing these automated “HGV platoons” later this year. The Times reports that UK Chancellor George Osborne is expected to confirm funding for the project in his upcoming budget speech.

    The conveys will consist of ten trucks driving in tandem, with only a few feet between each one. This method will allow the vehicles to drive in the front truck’s slipstream, a technique called ‘drafting,’ which significantly reduces drag and can improve fuel consumption by around 15 percent.

    Each ‘platoon’ will be lead by a truck carrying a human driver, who will monitor followers using laser sensors and infrared cameras. The other vehicles will navigate using a “highway pilot,” that uses cameras and radar to drive autonomously. It’s hoped that the entire convoy will eventually become fully autonomous - no human drivers required.

    Drivers’ associations have already criticized the plans, claiming that the convoys may cause serious problems for other road users. “It’s a complicated one and road users will naturally have concerns about it,” said Paul Watters, head of transport policy at the Automobile Association (AA). “If the lorries are following each other closely, it might be hard to spot the road signs.”

    Reports state that the tests will take place on a quieter section of the UK’s road network, one where the lead driver won’t have to navigate numerous junctions. Other have pointed out, however, that as the UK’s major roads have more entrances and exits “than any other motorways in Europe or indeed the world,” this ‘road train’ may encounter problems.

    Daimler has already tested its self-driving trucks (pictured) in Germany, and it looks as if its vehicles will be used in the UK trials. The company has also been given permission to test the trucks on US roads.

    Image credit: Daimler AG

    Permalink to story.

  2. SirGCal

    SirGCal TS Maniac Posts: 365   +137

    Wow, I don't have hardwood floors in my house... But seriously, what happens when someone cuts in front of one of the 'train'? In the US, it WOULD happen... Don't care how close they are unless it's literal feet... If any car can fit, someone WILL try.
  3. cartera

    cartera TS Evangelist Posts: 365   +113

    I can't wait to overtake one of these, 15 trucks one after the other. That would be a nightmare, and not to mention if googles foray into automation is anything to go by the train will average 15mph as well.
  4. Reehahs

    Reehahs TS Guru Posts: 575   +316

    Every junction and exit slip road would need signals that should stay red to allow the platoon to pass. Otherwise there will be accidents.
    bmw95 likes this.
  5. Adhmuz

    Adhmuz TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,829   +634

    I wish crap like this would be left out of the article...

    "that as the UK's major roads have more entrances and exits "than any other motorways in Europe or indeed the world,""

    A stupid statement based on no actual facts like this makes no sense in an article on the internet, a quick Google search would revealed otherwise proving that people in the UK still think they are the center of the world. It's like they forget the US exits with the largest road network in the world, 20 times that of the UK and don't forget about China's fastest growing motorway network, anyways.

    That's got nothing to do with the article, in regards to these truck train convoy things, this would only work for extensively long stretches of road with limited traffic and on ramp/off ramps. And like all autonomous vehicles the problems created by these convoys will out way the benefits. Imagine trying to pass a 10 truck convoy doing 60 mph, behind another truck doing 61 mph (it happens all the time) it could take in excess of 30 minutes, you could then get boxed in making you miss your exit, someone could try to merge in the middle of the convoy, who the hell knows. Really this won't be a good idea until ALL the cars are first made to be autonomous.
  6. Technician

    Technician TS Addict Posts: 677   +114

    I didn't read that as the UK is the center of the world, I read it as the UK is the worst at highway design of any country in Europe or indeed, the world.

    As for the trucks, it's a huge improvement to truckers keeping 2 sets of log books, one for the highway patrol and one for their employer and then driving for 20 hours without a break to make more money.
    Adhmuz likes this.
  7. Technician

    Technician TS Addict Posts: 677   +114

    Assuredly, the truck costs more than your house as well.

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