The government is testing driverless trucks on the A14 highway

Self-driving trucks that could help to speed up roadworks are being tested on Britain’s highways for the first time.

A 25-tonne autonomous truck, capable of moving huge amounts of earth without human supervision will take to the roads on a stretch of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon as part of a trial by Highways England.

The trucks, capable of carrying a load of 40 tonnes, can be programmed remotely to follow a pre-determined route along road work sites and can detect and avoid obstacles, like other vehicles, along the route as they drive.

This is the first time that this type of technology will be piloted on UK roads after similar tests in Australia.

The aim is to reduce the amount of time that roadwork improvements take by enabling trucks to work around the clock as well as cutting the risk of road workers being involved in incidents on site.

Julian Lamb, the deputy project director for the A14 project at Highways England, said: “Road construction has changed massively over the years and the testing of trucks such as these promises to allow us to work efficiently, speeding up roadworks, giving more protection to road workers, and moving jobs to other skilled areas.”

The truck, from contractor firm CA Blackwell, is programmed to within 25mm on its route so the vehicle cannot “just wander off” from its strictly controlled route.

The dumper truck is fitted with a GPS tracker, Wi-Fi receiver and laser light unit to traverse its route. Similar trucks are already in use in Australia for work in mines, some of which are now fully automated.

Highways England committed £150,000 from its innovation designated fund to invest in the trial. It said that it expects that autonomous dump trucks will be in “full operation” in the next two to three years.

This pilot comes as companies ramp up their efforts to produce functional autonomous vehicles. Between 2014 and 2017 close to $80 billion has been invested in autonomous vehicles according to the Brookings Institute, a US think-tank.

Companies like Waymo, Uber and Jaguar are hoping to develop their own driverless car technology offering.

Via The Telegraph