UK's first HGV platooning project begins

The first real-world operational trial of platooning vehicles is due to take place later this year. The £8.1 million trial, funded by the Department for Transport (DfT) and Highways England, includes TRL, a global centre of innovation in transport and mobility, DAF Trucks, logistics firm, DHL, and Fusion Processing, which will be providing the sensing technology and control systems.

A bespoke version of Fusion Processing’s CAVstar system will be used as part of the trial in which cutting-edge technology will enable three DAF Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) to travel safely in close proximity, at speed, with the lead driver controlling the speed, acceleration and breaking of the whole ‘platoon’. Use of platooning has the potential to greatly increase fuel efficiency, reduce carbon emissions for trucks and improve safety.

Applying experience gained in platooning projects in Europe and the USA, this project will be used to collect vital information and independently evaluate heavy vehicle platooning under real-world operational conditions. Importantly, trials will be tailored to the unique requirements of UK roads. The partners will collate the evidence required to understand potential challenges of platooning and quantify benefits such as fuel efficiency, reduced emissions and safety implications for future infrastructure. The trial will also consider the commercial case for adoption and look at the acceptance of platooning by both platoon drivers and other road users.

CAVstar optical and radar sensors will gather vital data on how other drivers behave around the platooning trucks. This data, which will be analysed by TRL, will provide critical information on safety matters and how other drivers respond to trucks using this new technology.

Jim Hutchinson, chief executive officer, Fusion Processing, said; “Working alongside global brands such as DAF, TRL and DHL demonstrates the robustness of our system to gather vital data that will ultimately inform the rollout of this technology to real-world applications.”

The on-road trials will form part of regular DHL logistical operations. The first phase is expected to take place later this year, following the successful completion of a rigorous programme of driving simulations, driver training and test track trials over the coming months.