Self-Driving Lorries – Yes or No!

I have just read a report that the United Kingdom is to trial self-driving trucks next year, and from what I read I can see a lot of confusion on the roads if this becomes a reality.

How It Works

How It Works

The plan is for a fleet of trucks to drive a few feet apart on our roads, all being controlled by the driver in the lead vehicle. Information will be passed from truck to truck via WiFi signals, infra-red cameras and lasers.

What for example would happen if  they lose the WiFi signal or experience interference that suddenly disrupts the signal? You know it happens because you have probably experienced it with your computer.

This idea may sound fine until you look into the logistics of it. From my perspective, I see the possibility of mass chaos on our roads in such an event.

Try Passing This Lot

Try Passing This Lot

Can you imagine the problems of passing say, ten trucks all driving a few feet apart and you want to overtake? Maybe not such a problem on motorways, but what about on normal roads? What will happen to the convoy when it comes to a round-a-bout? What will happen if the convoy has to go through a town?

All the trucks in the convoy are totally reliant on the driving skills of the lead driver, so it would take an exceptional driver to take responsibility for every vehicle in the convoy.

Confusing!

Confusing!

I can well imagine the Police having a dilemma too if the lead driver is caught speeding. Do they issue a ticket only to the lead driver, or to each one in the convoy, because basically they are all speeding.

Just as an aside, I wonder how the insurance companies will handle claims if an accident happens? Will the lead driver’s insurance cover all the vehicles because he is ‘in charge’. I doubt it. I can see a lot of squabbling going on between the companies as they try to sort out who is responsible for what!

It may sound like a good idea, but I can see it being fraught with problems, especially for other road users. I can just imagine the frustration of driving behind such a convoy, wanting to overtake but not being able to. This situation usually leads to accidents when someone takes a chance and tries to force their way past.

UK Roundabout Chaos

UK Roundabout Chaos

You can be sure there will be confusion at round-a-bouts when the convoy gets broken up because trucks have to give way to others with priority. The same can be said if they have to travel through a town.

Britain is not like America where you can drive for several hundred miles between cities on scarcely populated roads. With the exception of the motorways, roads in Britain are crowded, narrow, twisty and with populated areas every few miles. So in my view, such a thing is impractical in Britain.

Another big problem I see with such an idea is traffic safety. The driver of the lead vehicle must make decisions for the whole convoy, and naturally his mind is occupied. The following drivers however will have nothing to do because their vehicle is under his control. The situation will result in these drivers perhaps doing paperwork, gazing out the window or even falling asleep, especially at night.

And In An Emergency The Response Time Is.........?

And In An Emergency The Response Time Is………?

So what happens when a frustrated car driver trying to overtake the column, is forced by an on-coming car to pull into the few scant feet between two following vehicles? The mind of any driver must be ‘on the road’ at all times, otherwise accidents are inevitable. Driving a truck from London to Glasgow is tiring for anyone, but to be sat behind the wheel with nothing to do makes the problem ten times worse.

Looking at this idea from a global perspective, I can well see that it would work in Europe for trucks travelling from e.g. Calais in France to Madrid in Spain, or from Eastern Europe to the west, for these vehicles travel perhaps a thousand kilometres or more, and mainly on motorways.

The world today has more than it’s fair share of bad drivers, but to take away control of a heavy goods vehicle from the driver on English roads is to me a recipe for disaster.

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