Highways England is set to begin a trial of self-driving trucks to accelerate and streamline the process of road repairs in the UK.
The autonomous dump trucks, which will follow pre-programmed routes to transport large quantities of excavated earth on construction sites, carry the dual benefits of being able to work around the cloak – thereby reducing the period of time necessary to carry out roadworks operations – and minimising the risk of harm to workers on site, as they do not require drivers. They will be introduced in a trial on works currently underway improving the A14 road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.
Julian Lamb, Deputy Project Director on behalf of Highways England for the A14, said: “We’re increasingly looking to technological advances to help us safely bring improvements to drivers on England’s motorways and major A-roads. 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 trial we are leading with our partner CA Blackwell will enable the construction industry as a whole to be in a more informed position to make key decisions about autonomy on UK construction sites.”
Highways England has committed £150,000 (€175,291) to the trial of self-driving trucks from its designated fund for innovation, aimed at modernising the UK’s road networks. Niall Fraser, director of earthworks services supplier CA Blackwell, said: “We are delighted to have received the backing of Highways England and their Designated Funds grant for this trial and are grateful for the support and commitment of our technology providers in making it a reality.”
If the trial is successful, Highways England intends to introduce self-driving trucks onto construction sites and road improvement works across the UK. It anticipates autonomous trucks will be in full operation nationwide within two to three years.