Automated lorries are to be tested on a UK motorway this year, after Chancellor George Osborne gave approval to the idea during the March Budget.
The Times reported earlier in the month that exploratory tests had been approved with the aim of reducing congestion and creating speedier deliveries. Undoubtedly, if implemented, these driverless vehicles will have a positive impact upon the efficiency of marketing distribution and supply chains.
Led by a human driver, fleets of up to 10 computer-controlled lorries would travel together on a yet to be confirmed motorway, although this is being widely reported as part of the M6 near to Carlisle.
The Department of Transport has 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.”
Some organisations have expressed their concerns about the use of new technology on UK roads and highways. The AA President, Edmund King, has said he believes the design of motorway network in the UK is not compatible with such advancements in delivery driving. The use of driverless lorries could bring about further problems for other road users who would find it difficult to navigate around convoys of large vehicles at designated entry and exit points, he said to the BBC.
Other bodies, such as the Institution of Engineering and Technology, have conducted research that found human drivers exhibited dangerous habits when they shared roads with autonomous vehicles.
Nevertheless, the benefits for distribution and delivery businesses could be difficult to overlook if these trials are successful.
It is understood that a comprehensive, high-specification network of cameras, data and sensors will guide the automated lorries on the roads. A radar system will work alongside cameras to calculate safe speeds, distances and identification of other vehicles.
Ben Whitby, mda Client Services and Operations Director, said, “At mda we’re delighted to have a reputation for innovation and groundbreaking initiatives following a series of tech launches over the last five years, many of which being industry firsts within the marketing fulfilment sector. Of course, we have a innovation pipeline for the years ahead in order to deliver the very best practice and efficiencies to our clients and we’re delighted to hear of the commitment to trial driverless distribution vehicles which matches our vision for innovation – as always, existing clients can rest assured that we will be seeking opportunities to investigate such technology.”