Self-driving lorries are to be tested on UK roads by the end of next year, the government has said.
The Transport Research Laboratory has been given a contract to trial vehicle “platoons”, which will consist of up to three lorries moving in tandem, with the front vehicle controlling the speed and breaking of the group.
The head of the AA has said platoons are a safety concern, but it is thought driverless lorries could save industry billions of pounds.
The first tests will take place on test tracks, but it is thought the platoons could be trialled on major roads by the end of 2018.
The Department of Transport also today published a report into the feasibility of heavy-vehicle platoons.
The report concluded that the convoys were “technically feasible”, adding: “A trial would provide the opportunity to directly measure the benefits that might be realised in terms of fuel and emissions economy and further investigate commercial viability.
“A phased trial could also provide information on the interaction between trial vehicles and other road traffic, allow investigation of public perceptions to the technologies, how to provide information to other road users, and allow investigation of how the driving task within the platoon is affected.”
Axa has found autonomous vehicles could save the industry £34bn over 10 years as it would bring in savings on labour, fuel, insurance and vehicle use.
David Williams, technical director at Axa, said: “It’s great to see the government push ahead with its driverless haulage testing plans. It is an important part of the UK’s driverless future, with significant implications for the UK’s roads, in terms of safety and congestion, and for the environment, business and the UK economy as a whole.”
“Autonomous freight will not only be much more efficient, reduce congestion on the motorways, and make the roads safer for other users, it will also reduce the prices of the end products that we all buy,” Williams said.