United Kingdom May Legalize Self-Driving Semi-Truck Platoon System

The United Kingdom may have exited the European Union, but they are about to dive head first into the world of autonomous vehicles. There’s just one obstacle however: getting the government to go along with it. 

A proposal has been made, which would clear the way for self-driving truck technology called “platooning.” Platooning refers to multiple trucks being connected by wireless technology, similar to Wi-Fi, and following a manned lead vehicle in a tight convoy, thereby saving fuel economy and potentially manpower according to Quartz. This system was tested in April 2016 when dozens of trucks drove thousands of kilometers across Europe.

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Approval of the platoon hinges upon the tweaking of Highway Code Rule 126, which states drivers must leave a two-second gap between their vehicle and the vehicle in front as a way to prevent rear ending a car. Quartz reports that the trucks which were tested in the April trials by automakers Volvo and Scania, were driven in platoons with gaps of less than one second between them. The benefit of these platoons is the reduction of “thinking distance” because the trucks further back in the convoy can react immediately to speed changes with the leading vehicle. Logic follows that the tighter the platoon, the less fuel is used and the less carbon is put into the air. 

“There is an opportunity to reduce the separation distance required between these vehicles, and hence to maximize the efficiency gains through reduced aerodynamic drag,” the government’s Center for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles said in a statement. 

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Introducing these platoons aren’t the only technology-related changes the United Kingdom is exploring. The country wants to change laws which "would allow other technologies that are commercially available such as automated remote-control parking, and motorway assistance that would allow drivers to take their hands off the wheel temporarily." 

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