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  1. ITV Report

'Self-driving' lorries to be trialled on UK motorways next year

Fleets of self-driving lorries will be trialled on Britain's motorways for the first time next year, the government has announced.

Up to three "driverless" HGVs measuring half a football pitch will travel in convoy, or so-called "platoons".

Acceleration and braking will be controlled by one driver in the lead lorry using wireless technology.

There will be drivers sat in the other lorries while they are tested but they should only need to take the wheel in an emergency.

It is hoped it could reduce pollution by making the other vehicles more efficient and lowering their emissions.

Similar trials have already been carried out elsewhere in Europe and in the US.

But motoring experts questioned the suitability of self-driving lorries on the UK's heavily congested and smaller roads.

Critics say it won't work on UK roads.

AA president Edmund King warned that a platoon of three lorries can obscure road signs from drivers in outside lanes and could block access to slip roads.

"A three-truck platoon is longer than half a Premier League football pitch," he said.

"We all want to promote fuel efficiency and reduced congestion but we are not yet convinced that lorry platooning on UK motorways is the way to go about it.

"We have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries. Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America."

Lorry drivers say it is a difficult job because the roads are so busy.

The government has provided £8.1 million funding towards the trials, which are expected to take place by the end of next year.

All lorries involved will have a driver ready to take control if required.

Transport minister Paul Maynard says there are many benefits to the technology: "We are investing in technology that will improve people's lives.

"Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion.

"But first we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that's why we are investing in these trials."

The trial is also funded by Highways England and the tests will be carried out by the Transport Research Laboratory.

Initial test track research will help to ascertain the appropriate distance between vehicles and on which roads the tests should take place.