Driverless lorry convoys “will cause major safety concerns”

Lorries driven by computers are to be trialled under government plans to ease motorway congestion and improve safety. It is understood as many as ten of the trucks will form a tightly packed ‘road train’ in the inside lane. The convoy – operated by one driver at the front – will be electronically linked using wireless technology, allowing the vehicles to drive closer together and free up motorway space.

It is understood as many as ten of the trucks will form a tightly packed ‘road train’ in the inside lane.  Steering, acceleration and braking will be controlled by the lead driver but all trucks will have an operator in the cab in case of an emergency. The move is aimed at improving safety, cutting fatalities and easing congestion on a motorway network already stretched to capacity.

However Paul Watters, head of roads and transport policy for the AA, said the advent of driverless convoys would lead to major safety concerns from other drivers. Mr Watters said: ‘Motorists will certainly be very nervous about the prospect and will need considerable reassurance that it will be safe.’ He also said a procession of driverless lorries could pose a problem if convoys block slip roads.

Some experts say driverless vehicles could reduce accidents as computers are able to react a lot faster than humans. George Osborne is expected to confirm the scheme this week, with a stretch of the M6 near Carlisle used as a testing ground.

A spokesman for the Department of Transport said: ‘New technology has the potential to bring major improvements to journeys and the UK is in a unique position to lead the way for the testing of connected and driverless vehicles.

‘We are planning trials of HGV platoons – which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel – and will be in a position to say more in due course.’

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