Daimler is pulling the plug on its platooning programme after its real world trials delivered disappointing fuel savings due to traffic frequently interrupting the flow of the platoon.

The Mercedes-Benz manufacturer’s announcement comes as the UK prepares to launch its first on-road HGV platooning trial this spring using DAF trucks.

Speaking at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas this week Martin Daum, CEO of Daimler Trucks and Buses, said that while Daimler remains committed to developing autonomous trucks, the company has decided to shelve its platooning R&D programme after thousands of miles of real world testing had failed to deliver adequate fuel savings.

Daum said that whilst the technology “worked in the lab” the on-road trials had revealed that the platoons’ flow was frequently interrupted by surrounding traffic which had resulted in more fuel being burnt as the platoon tried to re-engage.

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He added that platooning may become a viable technology in the future if it could dispense with the need for drivers in the following trucks and said that Daimler had learnt a lot about the technology.

The UK’s first on-road HGV platooning trial is set to begin in spring this year with a convoy of three wirelessly connected DAF trucks driven in the first phase by the manufacturer's engineers.

If the first phase of the £8.5m government funded trial is a success a second phase will be launched in the latter half of this year. This will see the platoon incorporated into DHL Supply Chain's day-to-day delivery operations with specially trained company drivers operating the platoon.

Members of the consortium running the UK platooning trial, which includes DfT, Highways England, TRL and DAF have yet to respond to requests for comment.