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Self-driving lorry convoys are coming to the UK next year

The government has unveiled plans for a trial of partially self-driving lorries in the UK next year.

The convoys will consist of up to three HGVs, with the lead vehicle controlled by a human driver. The second and third lorries will be instructed to speed up and break by the first.

This, according to engineers, will minimise the gaps between each vehicle, reducing air resistance and boosting fuel efficiency.

The head of the Highways Agency, Jim Sullivan, said the trial could accelerate the roll out of self-driving vehicles on Britain’s roads.

“The trial has the potential to demonstrate how greater automation of vehicles can deliver improvements in safety, better journeys for road users and reduction in vehicle emissions,” he said.

But some critics have questioned the environmental benefits of the technology.

Edmund King, president of the AA, told the Today programme on Radio 4: “We should probably be focusing on electrifying our HGVs rather than this platooning that frankly would have minimal environmental benefit, if any.”

He added that convoys may block access to laybys or hard shoulders: “We do not have massive freeways like in Nevada and Arizona, where you’ve got long stretches of roads that are pretty open.”

But Josh Swites, founder of Peloton Technology, which developed the platoons, said the lorries could automatically make way for vehicles that needed to travel between them.

The contract to carry out the tests has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory. Its CEO Rob Wallis said: “The UK has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in trialling connected vehicle platoons in a real-world environment.”