Next year, convoys of self-driving trucks will be driving on U.K. roads

trucks
Andrey Pavlov/123RF
Only 30 years ago, the idea of convoys of self-driving trucks would have been a high concept horror movie setup straight out of the Stephen King playbook. Jump forward to 2017, and the U.K. government has just announced that it is greenlighting a trial of the technology on public roads. How far we’ve come!

The technology involves connecting two or more autonomous trucks together using Wi-Fi-based “vehicle-to-vehicle communication” technology so that they operate as a single unit. It’s not entirely autonomous in the sense of having no human involvement whatsoever. Instead, the lead vehicle is controlled by a human driver, with the other self-driving trucks in the convoy following behind in close pursuit. While the other trucks use autonomous technology in their driving, it is the job of the human driver at the front to control the speed and direction of all the vehicles in the convoy, with the others following his or her lead with zero reaction time.

The rationale behind it is that convoys of multiple trucks will require less space on the highway, can take advantage of the slipstreams created by the lead vehicle to reduce carbon emissions, and will help get the public used to self-driving vehicles.

The $10.5 million trial is scheduled to start sometime in 2018. Prior to that, the trucks and human drivers are being put through their paces using a combination of training courses, simulations, and test track trials.

“The U.K. has an unprecedented opportunity to lead the world in trialing connected vehicle platoons in a real-world environment,” said Rob Wallis, CEO of the Transport Research Foundation (TRL). “TRL and its consortium of leading international partners, have the practical and technical knowledge gained from previous projects to understand what is required to put a connected vehicle platoon onto U.K. roads safely. The team is now taking that expertise and uniquely applying it within live traffic operations.”

With similar tech already tested in Singapore and parts of Europe, TRL’s trials are not a world-first. However, the U.K. trial represents one more step on the road to making self-driving vehicles an everyday technology.

Emerging Tech

Delivery robots are poised to invade our cities, but are we ready for them?

Across the United States, small startups and big businesses alike are clamoring to swarm city streets with fleets of autonomous delivery robots. The only problem? Our urban areas aren't always well-equipped to accommodate them
Computing

Mueller report releases on CD, forces Congress to find PCs with disc drives

The Mueller report was released this week to Congress via CDs and congressional members had to find PCs with working disc drives to access the 400-page document. The redacted report was also released to the public on a website.
Emerging Tech

Sweden is building a road that recharges electric buses that drive over it

The Swedish transport administration is exploring special roads which will charge vehicles’ batteries as they drive over them. It will test the idea with a short sample stretch of road.
Cars

The Audi AI:me concept shows how a self-driving city car can fight boredom

Audi unveiled a concept named AI:me at the 2019 Shanghai Auto Show. It explores what an electric, autonomous, connected city car could be. It fights boredom with an on-board VR set while taking Audi's tech-savvy interiors to new heights.
Emerging Tech

Pepsi, StartRocket team up to launch satellites for energy drink ad in night sky

Pepsi is working with StartRocket to launch an energy drink advertisement into the night sky using miniature satellites. The Russian startup is looking to send its system into orbit in 2021.
Emerging Tech

Public vote opens for new planet name, but Planet McPlanetface won’t fly

The largest unnamed world in our solar system needs an official title, and you can help choose it. The scientists who discovered the icy planetoid recently announced details of a public vote offering three choices.
Emerging Tech

How MIT hacked horticulture to cultivate a hyper-flavorful basil plant

At MIT, Caleb Harper used his personal food computers to alter the climate in which he grew basil. Exposing it light for 24 hours a day changed the flavor profile of the plant, making it spicier and stronger.
Emerging Tech

Watch the fearsome DroneHunter X3 pluck rogue UAVs out of the sky

How do you stop enemy drones in their tracks? DroneHunter X3 is a new autonomous anti-drone technology which outruns and then captures rogue drones in midair. Check it out in action.
Emerging Tech

SpaceX’s main Falcon Heavy booster is lost at sea after falling off drone ship

SpaceX has lost the center core of its Falcon Heavy rocket after a successful mission last week that ended with it landing on a drone ship. SpaceX said rough seas resulted in the rocket toppling over and falling into the ocean.
Emerging Tech

Scientists manage to 3D print an actual heart using human cells

Scientists at Tel Aviv University have achieved a world-first by 3D printing a small-scale heart, complete with blood vessels, ventricles, and chambers. Here's why that's so exciting.
Emerging Tech

Drown out noisy neighbors and rest easy with these white noise machines

Some people are more sensitive to sound during sleep than others. Luckily, there are a number of white noise machines on the market to mask the noise. Here are our five of our current favorites.
Emerging Tech

Feast your eyes on the wildest, most elaborate Rube Goldberg machines ever built

Want to see something totally mesmerizing? Check out several of the best Rube Goldberg machines from across the internet, including one that serves cake and others that do ... nothing particularly useful.
Emerging Tech

Watch a pack of SpotMini robot dogs perform a terrifying feat of strength

Boston Dynamics' SpotMini robotic dog is now going around in packs, and the results are somewhat concerning. Check out the video to see what kind of shenanigans 10 of them got up to recently ...
Emerging Tech

Notre Dame fire: How drones and a robot called Colossus helped limit the damage

The fire that devastated the iconic Notre Dame Cathedral on Monday shocked many around the world. In a bid to prevent even worse damage to the structure, Paris firefighters opted to deploy drones and a robot called Colossus.