Drivers can expect to see computer-controlled road trains of up to 10 articulated lorries thundering up motorways on automatic pilot before the end of the year.
The Department of Transport is testing driverless technology for the 40 ton trucks that move together as a single unit like a train but with computer links rather than physical coupling.
The front vehicle has a driver and the rest of the trucks play follow the leader, keeping their distance from each other while travelling at the same speed.
Scientists claim the road trains are safe and save fuel.
German lorry firm Daimler has already tested road trains on autobahns.
However, such large road trains are considered too big for British motorways.
Driverless 40 ton lorries
The Department of Transport explained that British motorways have more junctions that are closer together than foreign motorways and this presents a problem to other drivers wanting to exit the road.
“A 10 truck road train can measure more than 400 feet and other drivers may have difficulties in navigating on and off motorways because of their size,” said a spokesman.
The first British tests will involve road trains on the M6 in the north west and Scotland.
“Traffic is lighter and the junctions are not so close together north of Preston, making that section of the motorway ideal for the trial,” said the spokesman.
The lorries have an autopilot computer harnessed to satellite positioning software, radar and cameras that plot where the lorries are on the road and keep alert for hazards.
The driver in the front vehicle is much like a train driver with a cut-out device that can stop all the vehicles in the road train if danger is sensed on the road ahead.
“The trial is about reducing congestion on motorways, saving fuel and making deliveries more efficient,” said the department’s spokesman.
Daimler has already tested a road train travelling at 50 mph on public roads.
“These vehicles are safer than human drivers because they are never tired or get distracted,2 said the spokesman.
Other self-driving car tests are taking place in California, led by Google, and by Robot Taxi Inc in Japan.
Robot Taxi wants to offer visitors to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics the chance to travel around the Olympic village in driverless cars.