‘Platoons’ of HGVs could soon be seen on real-world public roads in the UK following the news that the Department for Transport has approved the Transport Research Laboratory to conduct trials of the semi-autonomous technology.
Unlike fully autonomous vehicles, during the trials there will be human drivers in all of the trucks, and the driver of the lead vehicle will be in full control.
Those further back in the convoy will drive close behind, at a distance that might normally be thought of as tailgating, and will automatically brake or accelerate to maintain a constant distance.
As a result, the platoon overall will take up a shorter length of road, and the ability to control the convoy’s speed more constantly should result in a reduction in both fuel consumption and carbon emissions.
There are certain safety precautions in the test – the human drivers of vehicles further back will be able to take control to break formation, for example if the platoon is blocking the way of a car trying to exit at a slip road, or in the case of an emergency.
Coming in at a cost of just over £8 million, the trial builds on the feasibility study conducted in 2014 and on similar trials in continental Europe and the USA, but is tailored specifically to the characteristics of UK roads.
Richard Cuerden, academy director at TRL, said: “Platooning technology has the potential to deliver a wide range of benefits to all road users.
“As well as supporting the Department for Transport and Highways England in informing future infrastructure investments and policy decisions, the trials will highlight the services that platooning may offer road users and whether these can safely contribute to a reduction in vehicle emissions, improved journeys and greater economic prosperity.”
Driving Towards More Efficient Logistics
The platooning trials are currently expected to get underway in 2018 and will form part of real-world logistics operations for the participating companies, allowing for real results to be obtained.
Until this technology and other autonomous logistics developments reach maturity, improving efficiency remains a complex challenge at both the fleet and individual truck level.
3T Group’s transport management systems use detailed information about your operations to identify efficiency savings and reduce empty running, fuel consumption and other logistics costs.
Solo gives you the tools to cut transport costs using an intuitive web-based TMS platform, Symphony provides access to a national carrier network at local prices, and Chorus offers an independent 4PL platform to deliver cost reductions year on year.
To find out more about any of 3T Group’s transport management systems and 4PL services, call today on 0116 2824 111 or visit our Contact page to send us a message.