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Driverless Lorry Trials

(31 Posts)
railman Thu 10-Mar-16 11:37:58

A few days ago, the BBC covered the Dept. Of Transport planned trial of driverless lorries travelling in "groups" on the M6 in Cumbria later in 2016.

The Government made the following statement: The technology enables vehicles to move in a group, using less fuel, it said.

It may be just me, but we developed this technology in the UK many years ago - we called it a train! Surely it would be much better if we took these long-haul lorries off the roads, and invested in the inter-modal services planned in the 1990s, with distribution centres near major population centres.

We could save more fuel, and reduce pollution - if that's the only reason - that way surely.

Just because you have the technology doesn't mean it's either good or useful to deploy it in this way.

downtoearth Fri 11-Mar-16 08:28:32

The thought of a driverless lorry/ies scares the pants off me,think of the carnage if all where to go wrong.

Greyduster Fri 11-Mar-16 08:46:33

Groups of how many? And would they not need a lane of their own? At the moment, if you overtake a lorry, you can slot yourself back into the next available gap once you've done so, but how many driverless lorries would you have to overtake before you could use the slow lane again? Like Alea, the thought frightens the life out of me - I can see all sorts of difficulties with it. The only good thing is it would stop them sitting side by side blocking two lanes, trying to overtake each other!

Greyduster Fri 11-Mar-16 08:47:26

Sorry, downtoearth! A bit early for me yet!

Indinana Fri 11-Mar-16 08:55:48

Forgive me for being a bit dense here, but how does it save fuel by driving in groups? If one lorry uses X amount of fuel, then surely 10 lorries will use 10 x X confused

Luckygirl Fri 11-Mar-16 08:55:49

How right you are about the trains railman - all this money going into the development of driverless lorries when it could have paid for improvements in the rail system.

I suspect that our GC will be travelling in driverless cars one day.

Jane10 Fri 11-Mar-16 09:12:12

This is pointless technology for the sake of it. Why not just use trains? Why not have drivers? Its not as if we're short of people!

Elegran Fri 11-Mar-16 09:14:29

greyduster I think the lorry's computer system would be aware of someone overtaking and allow them to slot in. At least, I hope it would.

I agree about the trains - why fill the roads with heavy convoy transport which would have been better on rails? Admittedly the rails may not go to where the delivery is to be, but surely there could be an integrated system where containers (smaller than shipping ones) went on a train to a transfer point and then on to the customer on a flatbed truck or van?

Or even - a novel idea to planners today, but it flourished when the railways were first built - encourage the building of industrial sites next to a rail station with sidings to shunt goods carriages into for unloading at the factory door. The finished products could then be distributed by train too.

jinglbellsfrocks Fri 11-Mar-16 09:41:38

Good point about it being like a train railman. I suppose we can't complain though. We do all like our online shopping which must add a bit to distribution problems.

They have been trialling it in Gothenburg - the city where Volvos drive around done up in brown paper packaging.

obieone Fri 11-Mar-16 09:50:00

I used to be all in favour of increased rail. But it seems to me, that even if a short piece of existing track needs repair, it is very expensive to repair it.

As regards using drivers, no matter how many there are, they need paying.

As far as I know, the reason driverless cars havent come into operation yet, is something to do with the insurance industry as to who would be responsible in an accident and who would end up paying who [will try and find a link later].
So this idea about driverless lorries might come up against the same obstacle.

Another thought. I suspect that the funding for testing out driverless lorries may somewhat be coniming from the private sector. In which case it is more likely to come into being as long term, it would potentially save a fortune on lorry driver wages.

In my opinion, saying put it all on trains, which would involve mass investment by the Government on what is essentially a private sector "problem" is not going to happen in these financially straightened times.

railman Fri 11-Mar-16 14:07:21

I see where you are coming from obieone, but I'm not sure it's a "private sector" problem, since all our goods and perishables are transported by and large using lorries, so it's essentially all our our problem. (Or is that problems??!)

Anyway, back in the 1990s, those plans for road/rail and piggyback trains were just ditched because of the almighty *s up made by the 'privatisation' chaos. Still not much better today.

The idea of road/rail, or intermodal dates back to the 1960s under BR, and even before WW2 for some examples in the UK, when we did consider investing more, and integrating different modes.

On the distribution centre idea, we used to have masses of these - in rail terms we called them goods yards! Surley in the 21st century it can't be beyond the wit of man, or even government to plans and invest in schemes that deliver consumer products more efficiently, and without such damage to the environment.

As to your point elegran about the computer system allowing a car to "slot in" again after overtaking, let's just hope the lorry's system doesn't catch a virus!

Last rant of the day now, I agree with you Jane10, this is just gee whizz technology being used for its own sake - once a group of 10 such lorries have been shown to work on a motorway with less traffic, how soon before, 15, or more are used. If the technology is so good and so beneficial, why not try it on the M60, 62 or M25.

Synonymous Fri 11-Mar-16 14:37:41

It would make far more sense to use trains and extend the tracks. It is all a bit like reinventing the wheel!hmm
The safety issues of driverless 'trains of lorries' on our roads could give nightmares!

obieone Sat 12-Mar-16 06:46:41

Personally, I think driverless lorries will come.
They will probably operate more at night, and perhaps go no faster than 55 mph to make it easier for other drivers to overtake. Also, they could some sort of long or wide load markers. On links I have seen, they are talking about 10 driverless lorries long, with maybe a driver leading a lorry up in front.

The rail links are quite restricted in parts of the country. Unless there is mass investment[cant see this happening], I think rail is a no go. A shame perhaps.

I think current rail track is already heavily used, so investment would have to be colossal.

thatbags Sat 12-Mar-16 07:12:38

Why not trains does seem the obvious first question, but trains can't get to all the places lorries can get to so some, if not all, cargo carried on trains has to be transferred to lorries at some point, possibly at both ends of its train journey. Thinking of the logistics of that I wonder if there would in fact be any less fuel used.

Alea Sat 12-Mar-16 07:36:48

we called it a train - my sentiments entirely!

Even as things are at present, I once missed a junction because several lorries in a row obscured the actual exit sign and I found myself swept on to the next . Imagine a convoy of 12, you would have to tuck yourself in possibly miles in advance before the junction you needed!
Anybody remember the days of frequent Army convoys? They were worth all sort of points in my Eye-spy books. I wonder what you'd get for 12. Eddie Stobarts?
Just because you can, doesn't mean you necessarily should, to paraphrase railman.

Elegran Sat 12-Mar-16 09:10:33

These days, if you do see army convoys, the individual vehicles are separated from one another by other traffic. They have tried the all-in-a-row system and moved on.

Blinko Sat 12-Mar-16 09:31:24

memo to self: Avoid M6 north of Preston....

EEJit Sat 12-Mar-16 10:59:30

Thank god I'll have given up driving or even nuffed it before driverless vehicles become the norm, or at least I hope I will.

railman Sat 12-Mar-16 11:10:48

I agree with you thatbags - but how many times have we seen HGVs with satnavs up the wrong roads, getting stuck and causing mayhem.

We really do have to rethink long term investment for long haul goods services - in our small town, there are a couple of small florists shops, and the flowers come from the Netherlands, in 40tonnes+ HGVs.

We in the UK are currently wasting money hand over fist on so-called "smart motorways", and using the hard shoulder as an extra lane, but clearly driving a 40 tonne arctic over 500 miles to a couple of florists shops is not that smart!! Why not use the money to improve local/regional distribution, using smaller vehicles?

We managed to do it in the days of steam, but now we have "progressed" we seem as a country to be incapable of thinking further ahead than the next shareholder meeting.

Sorry all - but this idea seems both irrational and wholly lacking in logic, never mind common sense!! And it's Saturday too!!

Lupatria Sat 12-Mar-16 11:35:36

apparentlly we used to have a wonderful railway system that covered quite a lot of the british isles - that was axed by a dr beeching.

the system as it now is isn't as useful as it was as the powers that be decided to use the roadway system instead - especially motorways - for transporting goods.

perhaps it's time for a dr beeching to do some axing on the goods transportation system - there are far too many cars on the roads. and reducing the goods vehicles will also reduce the pollution.

i don't think that driverless lorries will be on our roads for many years - at least i hope not. driverless cars also fill me with horror.

obieone Sat 12-Mar-16 11:56:14

For some reason, I am not that bothered by driverless lorries[do feel sorry for lorry drivers though].
If they do come into being, I think people would get used to them pretty quickly.

I think most countries nowadays dont see or plan much further than the next election.

oldie730 Sat 12-Mar-16 12:27:14

Why driverless when there seems to be a driver sitting in the cab, perhaps this is only while it is an experiment. It seems practical in countries like Australia and America where there are miles of empty roads, but our roads are clogged up enough now. Imagine a convoy on the M25.

POGS Sat 12-Mar-16 12:53:56


As you started the thread can I ask you what your opinion is of driverless lorries already in usage and the Swedish trials.

Also do you think that companies such as Volvo, Mercedes, Daimler etc. are wrong in making driverless lorries and their trials ?

Am I correct in thinking that although the term is 'driverless' there will still be a human presence in the cab. I am likening driverless cabs to a plane where the pilot puts it into Automatic pilot but I have not read sufficient on the matter to make that a factual comment. You obviously know more probably.

rosesarered Sat 12-Mar-16 16:41:40

Driverless lorries? What could go wrong?!

shirleyhick Sat 12-Mar-16 20:18:56

Technology is moving far to fast for my liking what ever will they think of next.