The Department for Transport and Highways England are providing £8.1m funding for trials of ‘platooning’, whereby a series of HGVs become linked, invisibly but as surely as railway carriages.
Platooning involves two or more HGVs accelerating, braking and steering in sync through wireless ‘vehicle-to-vehicle communication’. The technology effectively allows them to communicate with each other and operate as a single unit, like a train.
The first UK trial next year will see up to three HGVs travelling in convoy and all will be controlled by the lead vehicle. All lorries in the platoon will have a driver ready to take control at any time. The pilot will explore whether this autonomous driver technology can improve the fuel efficiency of HGVs to reduce emissions output as well as increase traffic flow and road capacity. It is also hoped that the trial will boost acceptance and understanding by road users ahead of mapping out potential future infrastructure considerations. It will also look at the commercial case for the adoption of the technology.
Costain’s role is threefold: advising on technology solutions; leading on risk management; and providing traffic management and safety expertise to develop the safety case for platooning.
Costain highways director Simon Ellison said: “Costain is an industry leader in road technology and we are proud to be part of the consortium delivering the UK’s first operational road trial of platooning vehicles. We work hard to improve people’s lives and the automation of HGVs could see emissions reduced and safety improved on our roads.
“We have a strong track record of deploying technology-based engineering solutions to the UK’s road network and we will support this innovative pilot with our unique skillset and expertise.”