The BBC and others are today reporting the Department for Transport’s news that the Government has announced funding for a “platooning” feasibility study. This will allow up to three heavy goods vehicles to travel in convoy on motorways with their acceleration, braking and steering kept in sync through wireless technology, although all lorries in the platoon will have a driver ready to take control at any time. The press release notes that the trial will be carried out in three phases, with the first focusing on the potential for platooning on the UK’s major roads on which trials are expected by the end of 2018. Similar trials have already been successfully carried out in Europe and the United States.
Vehicle automation has the potential to change not just the way that we transport goods but also ourselves. It is anticipated that, ultimately, it will change the face of our towns and cities. Conversations about the potential impact of this new technology are already taking place. On 18 July 2017, the Herbert Smith Freehills Connected and Autonomous Vehicles Group held a half-day client-facing conference at our London office discussing these very issues through a series of panel discussions on topics including the global regulatory and commercial landscape for CAV technology; product liability and class action risks; challenges and opportunities for the insurance industry; cybersecurity and data protection issues; smart cities; and the potential impact on infrastructure. Matthew White, Head of Planning, London was one of the panellists.