The future of road haulage arrived in Rotterdam when a convoy of self-driving HGVs successfully completed a cross-border European trial.

The European Truck Platooning Challenge saw six convoys of more than a dozen ‘smart’ trucks converge on the Dutch city's harbour on Wednesday following trips from factories as far away as Sweden and southern Germany.

‘Truck platooning’ involves two or three wirelessly connected lorries autonomously driving in convoy, with the front vehicle determining route and speed.

Made by six of Europe’s largest manufacturers - DAF, Daimler, Iveco, MAN, Scania and Volvo – their arrival in Rotterdam was hailed as a success by Dutch infrastructure and environment minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen.

“Truck platooning will ensure cleaner and more efficient transport. Self-driving vehicles also contribute to road safety because most accidents are caused by human failure,” she said.

 

Human ‘drivers’ were required on board for the trial.

Eric Jonnaert, president of the umbrella body representing the six firms, said the technology improves traffic flow by allowing the vehicles to drive at a consistent speed.

Simultaneous braking allows the maintenance of constant distances between the HGVs, which allows them to drive closer together and benefit from slipstreaming.

 

However research has shown that human drivers alter their behaviour on the roads with autonomous cars, copying their driving style by leaving less braking distance.

“This is all part of a journey, which we are on as the automotive industry, towards highly automated vehicles,” Jonnaert told AFP.

He added that standardising regulations across the continent and designing systems enabling communication between lorries from different manufacturers were the main obstacles to the technology.

The Netherlands, which currently holds the EU presidency, will host a summit this month to discuss necessary changes to regulations, Dutch officials said.

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