The Anonymous Widower

‘Self-driving’ Lorries To Be Tested On UK Roads

The title of this post is the same as that of this article on the BBC. This is the first three paragraphs.

Small convoys of partially driverless lorries will be tried out on major British roads by the end of next year, the government has announced.

A contract has been awarded to the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to carry out the tests of vehicle “platoons”.

Up to three lorries will travel in formation, with acceleration and braking controlled by the lead vehicle.

It is a long time since I used to hitch-hike all over the UK in the 1960s and had many a ride in the front of a truck.

One of my memories is sitting there and watching how cars kept jumping into gaps between the truck I was riding in and the one in front.

I have a feeling that platooning is one of those automation ideas, that will work well in theory and practice to a certain degree, but that the behaviour of individuals will give it problems.

Generally, this idea hasn’t been well received, by commentators.

The Greener Alternative

I feel that overall we need to move freight from the roads onto the railways.

In The Go-Anywhere Express Parcel And Pallet Carrier, I proposed converting redundant four-car electric multiple units like the Class 321 trains into 100 mph bi-mode parcel and pallet carriers, which I dubbed High Speed Parcel Train or High Speed Pallet Train.

HSPTs would have the following advantages for parcel and pallet traffic.

  • Stations could be used as terminals, especially at night!
  • As they are 100 mph trains, they would probably be faster over long distances.
  • They would probably emit less carbon emissions.
  • Capacity per crew member would be higher.
  • There are few parts of the UK, the trains couldn’t go.
  • Class 321 trains are built from steel and are as tough as the proverbial brick outhouse.
  • The trains could carry a fork-lift if needed.
  • The trains could be wrapped in advertising.

The trains would be the ultimate green long-distance delivery truck.

  • Recycled trains.
  • Proven technology
  • Electrically-powered where possible.
  • ;Using existing infrastructure where possible.

They wouldn’t be the most expensive trains to create and run.

August 25, 2017 - Posted by | Transport | , ,

2 Comments »

  1. The problems come at junctions.

    On joining, it won’t be possible to thread in between a platoon, which could mean cars stopped waiting to join at the end of the slip – a problem that already occurs sometimes because a minority of drivers fail to accelerate on the slip road up to the speed of traffic on the main carriageway. A more serious manifestation is drivers who pull straight off the hard shoulder, rather accelerate to speed and thread in.

    On leaving a platoon may make it extremely difficult to exit – too long to overtake and to get behind one would mean cars almost stopping in the centre lane – very dangerous.

    IME this has not been thought through properly.

    Comment by Mark Clayton | August 25, 2017 | Reply

    • I think the safety implications are much more difficult to prove, than say for third-rail electrification, which is virtually banned, although there are good technical reasons not to use it.

      Comment by AnonW | August 25, 2017 | Reply


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