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Self-driving trials

The prospect of heavy goods vehicles travelling, operating by wireless, looks set to reach motorways with £8.1m UK Government funding for trials.

The system, ‘platooning’, will see up to three heavy goods vehicles, travelling in convoy, being controlled by the lead vehicle. However, every truck in the platoon will have a driver ready to take control should the need arise.

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At the Road Haulage Association (RHA), chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Of course we welcome improvements to the way the road freight industry works and we understand the benefits that such a mode of operation would bring.

“However, currently the focus seems to be on the technology behind the system. Safety has to come first and it cannot be compromised. It is crucial that this element of the concept gets the highest priority.”

And at the Freight Transport Association, Christopher Snelling, FTA’s Head of National Policy, says: “Platooning could be an innovative means of reducing fuel use so saving costs and reducing carbon and air quality emissions. Driving closely together, platoons of trucks take up less space on the road, and travelling at constant speeds can help improve traffic flows and reduce tailbacks. However, the system has to be shown to be safe on the roads and to deliver the promised benefits. The sooner the trial takes place, the sooner the UK logistics industry, which represents 11% of the UK’s non-financial business economy, can know if this will be the right route for the future.

“Technology is the solution to emissions, road safety and managing costs. Platooning could be a real opportunity to optimise logistics on the road – we need to know if it is the way forward as soon as possible.”

As for IT security, Raj Samani, Chief Scientist and Fellow at McAfee said: “While this is an exciting step for the UK, it’s important that we ensure security is prioritised as self-driving cars make their way onto our roads. This means collaboration across industries to ensure vulnerabilities are caught and potential threats are considered.

“The recent government guidelines will play a key role in ensuring UK manufacturers design out vulnerabilities, yet these guidelines will need to be constantly updated in line with the threat landscape. This will require cybersecurity companies to share their latest threat intelligence as a matter of priority. Without this insight, it will be much harder to keep these vehicles, their users and other drivers on our roads safe.”


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