MAN Platoon of two trucks on the road.

Legal liabilities and lack of collaboration between operators are among the major issues that continue to hold back the mainstream adoption of automated HGV technology and platooning in the UK.

This was the view of speakers at the Motor Transport Truck to the Future debate at the Microlise Transport Conference earlier this month.

Representatives from MAN, Iveco, Daf and Scania said they had all participated in platooning trials, but remained unsure as to whether it would result in common use of the technology.

One primary concern, said Iveco product director Martin Flach, was: “If you can get to the point where a Daf, an Iveco, an MAN and a Scania are all moving together in a line, talking properly to each other… you then get to the challenge of which one is the front vehicle and which one is the middle vehicle – because the middle vehicle consumes less fuel and platooning has to be multi-operator to make it work – which operator takes that middle spot in the platoon?”

Laurence Drake, business planning director at Daf Trucks, said the industry would learn from automation. “Whether that means we get to platooning or not, who knows?”

Flach believed the DfT wanted to do something immediately regarding automation and platooning, but there remained a gap between the department’s desire to do something and the ability of major truck manufacturers to collaborate.

MAN Truck and Bus UK MD Thomas Hemmerich said: “Everyone is nearly ready to go for this. But in the UK I see a legal problem – product liability. The big question is what is going to happen if something happens? For me, this is going to be the showstopper as it needs to be clear who carries what liability.”

Iveco’s Flach concurred: “The issue will be where does the legal responsibility lie? If you know you are going to crash, how do you do it? Into the bus stop? Into the other car? Who is making that decision and who is liable? As an individual you make that decision in a split second; the automated truck will only do what it is told to do.”

During the debate the manufacturers also said there was no silver bullet when it came to alternative fuels.