Proving the Business Case for the Internet of Things

Proposed platoon legislation in UK

William Payne
July 14, 2016

The British Government has proposed changes to regulations to make it possible for trucks to be platooned on British roads. The development would put the United Kingdom at the forefront of European developments in truck platooning. The proposals on platooning are part of a raft of measures to lighten road regulations to allow more connected and autonomous transport on British roads.

Platooning is an approach where trucks are connected by wireless technologies. The trucks in a platoon follow the lead vehicle closely, with speed and direction being controlled automatically according to directions from the lead and computer software. The advantage of platooning is to save on manpower, reduce fuel consumption and also cut the amount of carbon emissions produced by trucks.

Truck platooning in the United Kingdom is effectively prohibited by a single rule. This states that truck drivers must leave a two second gap between their vehicle and the vehicle in front.

The two second gap is arrived at as a combination of a driver's required thinking time, plus the breaking time necessary to stop. By removing drivers from the following trucks in a platoon, and replacing them with wireless communications and computer controls, the one second driver reaction time becomes unnecessary. Platooning trials carried out in Europe have typically placed a one second interval between platooned trucks.

The single regulation that needs changing is known as Highway Code Rule 126. The UK Government is proposing changing this rule in a public consultation that will be closed in early September.

According to the Government's Centre for Connected and Autonomous Vehicles, which is proposing the changes: "There is an opportunity to reduce the separation distance required between these vehicles, and hence to maximise the efficiency gains through reduced aerodynamic drag."

The Government is also proposing other changes to introduce greater automation in transport in the same consultation. These include allowing automated remote control parking, as well as motorway assistance, where the car enters assisted driving mode on motorway lanes. The Government is also proposing changing transport insurance rules, where car manufacturers share insurance risks with insurers.