This week the Government have announced that trials of driverless lorries will begin on our motorways at some time next year in a bit to cut congestion and omissions.
These lorries, which accelerate and brake at the same time, will travel in automated convoys of up to 3, being controlled by a driver in the lead vehicle. There will also be a driver in each of the cabs controlling the steering and ready to take control in the event of a problem.
However, according to the AA, these plans could pose a risk to motorists, as the fleet will be the equivalent of half a football pitch long, and are not suitable for the UK’s congested motorways.
Edmund King, President of the AA, said: “We have some of the busiest motorways in Europe with many more exits and entries. Platooning may work on the miles of deserted freeways in Arizona or Nevada but this is not America. A platoon of just three HGVs can obscure road signs from drivers in the outside lanes and potentially make access to entries or exits difficult for other drivers.
On the new motorways, without hard shoulders, lay-bys are every 1.5 miles. A driver in trouble may encounter difficulties trying to get into a lay-by if it is blocked by a platoon of trucks going past.”
Paul Maynard, the transport minister, said: “We are investing in technology that will improve people’s lives. “Advances such as lorry platooning could benefit businesses through cheaper fuel bills and other road users thanks to lower emissions and less congestion. First we must make sure the technology is safe and works well on our roads, and that’s why we are investing in these trials.”
RAC Foundation director Steve Gooding said: “Streams of close-running HGVs could provide financial savings on long-distance journeys, but on our heavily congested motorways – with stop-start traffic and vehicles jostling for position – the benefits are less certain.”
The rise in e-commerce and internet ordering has meant that for retailers and their customers, getting their deliveries to their home or place of work has never been easier. One click of a button and you can chose from same day or next day delivery, or even specify a day. Retailers are falling over themselves to deliver to you as quickly as possible, and this in turn means that some of the more traditional courier services will find it harder and harder to keep up with demand.
Delivery of an item has always been the most costly part of the process for retailers, and in an age where pollution and carbon footprint are of paramount importance, companies are going to need to look at new ways to get their parcel to its destination on time.
Pollution caused by vehicles, the number of cars and lorries on the road, and the strain it puts onto our infrastructure is something that is only going to get worse as time goes on. Sadiq Khan, Mayor of London, is for example hoping to cut 3 million car journeys a day into the city, with a potential pay per mile pricing. Congested roads lead to delays and cause excessive pollution. Southampton itself s well known as a city that has poor air quality, and has been named as one of the 40 places across the UK as breaching safely levels by the World Health Organisation.
As we shall see next week in our news article, Amazon have patented a new era of what look like Beehives in urban areas, with the ability to fly drones. The cost of a drone delivery however is expected to be very high, and may not be a long term economic ideal. Noise pollution and the aesthetics of the drone will also be called into question.
So, for those delivery vehicles that still rely on roads and wheels, what will become of them? Well, firstly they must become as carbon neutral as possible to heavily reduce the carbon footprint. There is always the possibility that vehicles will become driverless and operated remotely. Technology is always evolving but the obvious differences will be gradual.
There is no substitution for the personal touch and the knowledge that small, well run companies are very efficient and therefore are reducing their omissions as much as possible. Here at Think we are always trying to be as carbon neutral as possible and operate in the best possible way to ensure that our deliveries are as well organised as possible. We look forward to the changes that the digital age can bring, but will always enjoy delivering to our customers with the personal touch!