Self-driving lorries to hit UK streets in 2015
The lorries will allow whole convoys to transport goods with just one driver
Driverless trucks will be tested in the UK next year, meaning just one driver in a cab at the front could control a whole fleet of lorries with just a few yards between each.
The vehicles following the leader would be connected via Wi-Fi and infrared cameras and sensors would ensure each lorry can react if an obstacle gets in the way.
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.
The benefits of using the trucks include substantially cutting fuel consumption because of the reduced aerodynamic drag, which is likely to please environmental activists. However, critics say it will increase safety concerns and motoring groups claim it will 'intimidate' other road users.
Another issue is that such a long line of trucks may stop other road users joining the motorway, potentially causing congestion and even pile-ups on slip roads.
The Department for Transport said: "No decision has been reached on a trial using this new technology. However, road safety remains of paramount importance and will not be compromised."
Tests will first take place on tracks and then on quiet motorways overnight to ensure there are very few road users around at the time, should something go wrong. The next testing stage would involve using the lorries on congested roads to see how they react in heavy traffic.
The idea of testing driverless lorries is not new. Scania has been testing such vehicles in Sweden since 2012, while Daimler said it has tested a driverless truck on an autobahn in Germany.
Driverless cars will also be introduced in UK trials next year, following on from experiments headed up by Google in San Francisco.
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