Driverless lorries and cars will be trialled in the UK, the government has confirmed in its Budget.
Earlier in March, The Times suggested trials would take place on a “quiet stretch” of the M6 motorway in Cumbria in 2016.
The government has now confirmed “lorry platooning” trials, in which vehicles form a convoy headed by a driver in the leading lorry, will go ahead.
It also announced that driverless cars will be trialled on UK roads by 2017.
In the Budget, published on Wednesday, the government said it wanted the UK to be “a global centre for excellence in connected and autonomous vehicles”.
Companies such as Ford and Google have been testing autonomous cars for months, but trials typically take place in California.
Edmund King, president of roadside recovery firm AA, has questioned the feasibility of a lorry platooning scheme in the UK.
“The problem with the UK motorway network is that we have more entrances and exits of our motorways than any other motorways in Europe or indeed the world,” he said earlier in March.
“Therefore it’s very difficult to have a 44 tonne 10-lorry platoon, because other vehicles need to get past the platoon to enter or exit the road.”
Other technology-related points in the Budget included:
- plans for a £15m “connected corridor” between Dover and London with infrastructure that could communicate directly with vehicles
- trials of comparative fuel signage on the M5 motorway between Bristol and Exeter, letting drivers see the best deals
- development of a “5G” strategy in 2017, preparing the UK for next-generation wireless communications
- a £1,000 tax-free allowance for “micro-entrepreneurs” who sell products online, and a second £1,000 allowance for people who rent out their home online