A couple of years back self-driving Lorries became a kind of a hot-topic in UK’s transport industry. The conversation began in relation to the then-new experiments by companies such as Google and later on Tesla with self-driving cars. Naturally, transport companies, and we at AVIS UK, as well saw an opportunity for development of the industry thanks to the new technology. It was believed that self-driving Lorries are not a thing of the distant future but rather something we are going to have the opportunity to test any minute now. The most optimistic prognosis was for the launch date of the first test-drives to be some time in April 2015. This did not happen, but The Times has recently reported that Chancellor George Osborne is going to confirm funding for the self-driving trucks project within March’s budget announcement. This could simply mean one thing – that later this year we can now expect our nation’s highways to be opened to autonomously operated trucks. This is exciting news for everyone.
The technology lying behind self-driving Lorries is primarily the same one as with Google’s and Tesla’s self-driving cars. The principle in which they are to be used is also pretty simple. There will be a group of Lorries, most probably as many as ten at a time that are going to be driven by the new technology. Not a single one of these vehicles will require a driver with an exception to the one that is going to be on the front of the convoy. The Lorries will move with just a meter or two distance from each other thus creating a sort of a caravan which would be perfect for transportation of large quantities of goods on both short and long distances.
Naturally, everyone in the transportation industry sees much potential in this new development, but many, including ordinary people, do not kid themselves that the innovation is not going to come with some major problems and concerns. The main issue would be that such large convoys of Lorries might easily block the roads and create other risks for drivers of ordinary motor-vehicles. Not to mention that the sheer view of so many large vehicles occupying the lanes of our highways might turn out to be rather intimidating, like something that has come out of a 90s apocalyptic film about the rise of the machines. Paul Watters, head of road policy for the AA has proposed a solution in a conversation with the BBC in 2014 when the first discussions about self-driving Lorries began. He suggested that a dedicated line would be a reasonable solution.
Meanwhile, the discussions about possible testing grounds for the new technology have already started. The M6 motorway near Carlise has been said to be the most viable candidate at the present moment.
One thing is certain – there are still many aspects of the concept of self-driving Lorries that simply need to be thought through. It is unlikely for any transport company in the UK to start using such lorries in the foreseeable future, but there is little doubt that searching for new alternatives and making use of technological advances is the right way for increasing the quality of the service provided, as well as for significantly dropping down prices for transport in the country.
Self driving Lorries – pros and cons