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Trapped guests in doomed Italian hotel buried under snow

Up to 38 people are believed to have been killed when the hotel, in the village of Farindola, was crushed under a 6ft wall of snow yesterday as four earthquakes hit the central region of Abruzzo.
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Posted: January 20, 2017, 12:25 am

BBC NHS documentary crisis leaves viewers heartbroken

One unavailable bed put a stop to Peter Lai, who was in need of surgery in BBC2's Hospital. The team of experts at St Mary's Hospital, London, tried their to find a bed but the patient was sent home.
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Posted: January 20, 2017, 12:12 am

Once-a-month bin collections cause stink in Wales

Residents in Conwy, north Wales, are among the first in the UK to be forced to wait a month for the council to collect non-recyclable waste. Many councils have plans to introduce similar schemes.
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Posted: January 20, 2017, 12:06 am

Mother who fed daughter drugs before death jailed

Michala Pyke fed her daughter, Poppy Widdison, so the little girl didn't get in the way of her relationship with John Rytting. Poppy died in June 2013 at Rytting's home in Grimsby.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 11:59 pm

Friends and family say goodbye to Rick Parfitt at funeral

The private service is taking place at Woking Crematorium in Surrey after the veteran musician died aged 68 on Christmas Eve after suffering a severe infection in a Spanish hospital.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 11:47 pm

Istanbul killer was sent three women by ISIS as reward

Alleged killer Abdulkadir Mashaipov was sent three women by the terror group as a prize for gunning down 39 people inside the Reina nightclub in Istanbul during New Year's Eve celebrations.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 10:16 pm

Saudi Arabia crash: Six Britons killed and four injured

It is understood the victims, including a newborn baby, had been on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 10:09 pm

Waterloo and Westminster Bridges shut over 'WWII device'

The device has been dredged up from the river and is being investigated by police.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 9:27 pm

Inside the Nazis' infamous Mauthausen concentration camps

Up to 320,000 people died at Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria, where prisoners were forced to perform back-breaking work at a quarry. WARNING: Distressing images.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 9:11 pm

North Korea prepares missile launch for inauguration day

North Korea is preparing to test another missile, with the country's eccentric leader Kim Jong-un possibly planning a launch to coincide with the inauguration of Donald Trump as US President.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 8:36 pm

Man convicted of killing family is executed in Virginia

Death row inmate Ricky Gray, 39, was pronounced dead at 9.42pm on Wednesday following a lethal injection at the Greensville Correctional Center in Jarratt, Virginia.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 8:02 pm

Trump hints New York Jets owner Woody Johnson will be US envoy to UK

The scion of the Johnson & Johnson pharmaceutical giant has known the president-elect for years.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 7:38 pm

Poppy Widdison's uncle speaks outside court

The uncle of a four-year-old girl speaks outside court, after her mother and another man are sentenced for feeding her a deadly amount of drugs.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 7:32 pm

Dunelm venetian blind thief gets community order

Jessie Bellham, who stuffed the stolen Dunelm shade in his trousers, is sentenced for his troubles.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 7:08 pm

British tourists killed in bus crash in Saudi Arabia 

Three generations of a British family including a two-month-old baby boy have died in a minibus crash in Saudi Arabia that also killed a married couple from Glasgow on a pilgrimage to Mecca.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 6:53 pm

Supermarkets failing to drop Buy One Get One Free deals

Supermarkets like Tesco and Sainsbury’s have boasted of getting rid of buy one, get one free deals on products that will soon go off. But MPs said the deals are still being promoted online.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 6:36 pm

Martin McGuinness - from paramilitary to politician

A look back the the career of former deputy first minister, Martin McGuinness.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 6:32 pm

May's 'positive discussion' with banks

Theresa May has had 'positive' discussions with banks about their future presence in London, she told the BBC.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 6:15 pm

France to allow under-18s to watch real sex in films

France's culture minister Audrey Azoulay (pictured) will announce that under-18s will no longer be automatically blocked from seeing a film that contains non-simulated sex.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 5:48 pm

RMT Southern rail strikes to go ahead

A strike by conductors on the Southern rail network will still go ahead next week after the RMT was barred from ongoing talks, the union says.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 5:48 pm

The Amazon tribe that kills and eats monkeys 

British photographer Pete Oxford took these amazing photographs of the Huaorani tribe, who live in the rainforests of Ecuador, by a tributary of the mighty Amazon river.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 5:39 pm

First British holidaymakers return from The Gambia

"The local people were crying and worried about their children," says one British tourist.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 5:15 pm

Pedestrian dies after being hit by fire engine in Royston

A pedestrian dies after a fire engine responding to an emergency loses control and overturns.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:59 pm

Black Lives Matter Heathrow protesters found guilty

The protestors caused "utter chaos" as they blocked a southbound road to the airport in August 2015.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:56 pm

Theresa May warns extremists could take over at Davos 2017

Theresa May has made a broad pitch to position the UK as a champion of free trade and commerce but warned the Davos elite that they must help make society fairer.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:51 pm

The Cold War anti-air cruiser waiting to be scrapped

Rusting replica missiles and dentist chairs still remain on the derelict French cruiser - called 'Colbert' - in Landevennec, in France.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:39 pm

Tunisia attack: Tour operator TUI 'not aware of security risk'

Tour operator TUI was not made aware of a security risk prior to the 2015 Tunisia hotel attack, an inquest is told.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:36 pm

Firefighters killed as blazing building collapses in Iran

Thirty firefighters have been killed after Iran's oldest high-rise collapsed following a fire. State TV said 200 firefighters had been called to the scene at the 15-storey Plasco building in Tehran.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:24 pm

Man banned from having sex without telling police JAILED

Geoffrey Ball (pictured) was sentenced to 16 months in prison after meeting a 50-year-old woman in a Yates's pub, before going back to her home in Middlesbrough.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:20 pm

BBC breached rules with a report on Labour's Jeremy Corbyn

The Labour leader said in November 2015 he was 'not happy' about armed officers and special forces having an order to kill fanatics to bring an atrocity to an end.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:05 pm

Honduras police parade 'members of notorious Barrio 18'

Members of the National Inter-Institutional Security Force (FUSINA) yesterday paraded alleged members of the feared gang Barrio 18, who stand accused of being involved in the murder of a journalist.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:05 pm

69% of Germans want to see the Burka BANNED

Only a quarter of Americans want the full body and face veil outlawed, according to international research carried out by Britain-based YouGov.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 4:01 pm

Mother killed herself after losing baby and boyfriend

Kirsty Farbrother (pictured), 21, from Burton in Staffordshire, was found dead in her home by her mum Tracey, 46, who lived with her, on January 10.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 3:33 pm

Safe breaks?

As The Gambia becomes the latest country the Foreign Office advises against travelling to, where will UK tourists go for their breaks?
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 3:15 pm

ISIS carry out mass execution of 'spies' and Iraqi solders

WARNING GRAPHIC CONTENT: Captured Iraqi soldiers and prisoners accused of being spies are either shot in the head or have their throats cut in the grim video, filmed in Kirkuk, northern Iraq.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 3:10 pm

Rolf Harris trial: Ex-TV star 'grabbed woman's breasts'

An alleged victim tells the ex-TV star's trial he assaulted her in a "quick opportunistic grope".
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 3:07 pm

Alexander Armstrong discovers he is a Pointless answer

Contestant Linda was asked to identify  an 'artist who featured in the top 40 biggest albums list of 2015' by Alexander Armstrong and she gave his name following the release of an album in 2015.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 2:50 pm

Mother who treated stepdaughters as slaves is jailed

Caroline Sharp, from Brigg, North Lincolnshire, subjected the girls to 'the childhood of nightmares' with one of the youngsters being denied a bath for six weeks.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 2:31 pm

Which 2016 TV advert got most complaints?

A series of TV adverts featuring dancing builders and businessmen wearing hot pants prompted the most complaints last year.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 2:27 pm

Windsor Castle undergoes two-week 'high clean'

Chandeliers and suits of armour are just some of the features being dusted down.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 12:50 pm

Amanda Abbington steps out amid Martin Freeman 'split'

The actress, 42, was spotted dressed all in black as she dashed to a cashpoint in London on her own this week as new claims about her split from Martin Freeman emerged.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 12:42 pm

Poppy Widdison death: Mother and partner jailed for 13 years

A mother and her ex-partner are sentenced to 13 years each over the death of Poppy Widdison.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 12:41 pm

Remains of Leicester call centre worker found in suitcase

Ashwin Daudia, 50, pictured, is accused of killing Kiran Daudia, 46, pictured, and dumping her remains in an alleyway near her home in Leicester.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 12:18 pm

Going boldly? Star Trek star's new role

From Captain Picard to poo - the surprising new role for Sir Patrick Stewart.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 12:13 pm

Husband, 61, stabbed his spouse with an 8in carving knife

Russell Worthington, 61, of Amesbury, Wiltshire, who denies wounding with intent to cause grievous bodily harm, allegedly stabbed Gail, 63, before telling a 999 operator he had just killed her.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 11:57 am

Wife, 18, stabbed husband's teenage mistress in attack

Natasha Khan, 18, of Whalley Range, Manchester, stormed up to Leah Cryne and subjected her to the knife attack after she saw the woman by chance while walking in a park with her spouse.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 11:51 am

Matthew Kersey jailed for beating up pregnant girlfriend

Matthew Kersey, 34 - who mugged Jack Shilton in a late-night attack in Ipswich, Suffolk, in June 2013 - has been jailed for 20 weeks for the violent attack on Tanya Bond, 35, when she was five months pregnant.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 11:08 am

NHS leaves cancer sufferer with differently shaped breasts

Gina Truman, from Yeovil, had her right breast removed in 2013 to get rid of the tumour. She was told her left breast would be made to look symmetrical, but funding cuts put an end to this.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 10:44 am

Desperate Scousewives's Elissa Corrigan beats firm VCS

Elissa Corrigan, 31, was stung with 19 parking tickets from Vehicle Control Services Ltd in just one year, despite leaving her car in one of the spaces provided outside her apartment in Liverpool.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 10:33 am

Tourists' tears over leaving The Gambia

Thousands of UK and Dutch tourists continue to be evacuated from The Gambia on special charter flights. People arriving at Manchester airport spoke to the BBC.
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Posted: January 19, 2017, 10:30 am

Driver-less trucks will be trialed in the UK as platooning

Driver-less trucks will be trialed in the UK as platooning

Driver-less trucks will be trialed in the UK as platooning

The government is expected to confirm that so called, ‘driverless’ trucks will be trialed in the UK.  Generally met with shock and condemnation, what is actually being proposed?

The correct term for the proposed system to be trialled is not ‘driverless trucks’, but ‘platooning’. This is where a series of vehicles use technology to enable drivers to move more closely to each other in convoy than would be safe if he or she were not using them. The UK government has agreed to a limited trial of platooning on a stretch of the M6 in Cumbria, a portion of UK motorway that is relatively quiet with larger sections between junctions.

There is clearly plenty of concern from road safety campaigners and industry bodies concerned for the long term future of lorry driver jobs.

The RAC’s chief engineer, David Bizley said, “One of the main questions is really whether lorry platoons are appropriate for our motorway network, which is why the choice of the M6 in Cumbria for the trials is a good one because the junctions are few and far between and the traffic density is low compared with most stretches of motorway. So while this is a potentially welcome extension to the driverless technology we are seeing trialled in cars, it’s not clear yet whether it is something that would work in practice on the UK’s motorway network.”

Platooning

Platooning is nothing new – research into these systems started back in 2009 with EU funding – with the SARTRE (Safe Road Trains for the Environment) project. The project tested combinations of cars, coaches and trucks and resulted in some significant fuel savings across the board between ten and twenty percent.

The first public road test took place back in 2012 in Spain involving three cars and a truck with a gap of 18 feet between each vehicle at a speed of 85 km/h, covering some 200 kilometres.

Since this time, platooning has been trialled in Sweden, Germany and in the United States. Road Haulage Association chief executive Richard Burnett commented: “At the outset, it is important to note that these trucks will not be ‘driverless’. Each cab will be manned. As far as we are concerned, this is an issue where the devil lies in the detail.”

Fuel Saving not Driver Saving

There has been plenty of scaremongering in the press that this will be the end of the long-distance lorry driver as we know it.   The platooning system very much needs the driver to be in control, he needs to be able to join and exit the system to continue the journey and deliver the load.  Platooning saves Fuel

The most likely outcome of the test is a significant improvement in fuel consumption or not only vehicles following in the platoon, but also of the lead vehicle.  Additionally, traffic flow should be smoother when sufficient numbers of vehicles are included.

Tests by Scania have shown that convoy driving using truck “platoons” can reduce fuel consumption by up to 12%.  This could mean a fuel saving per vehicle of some 4,000 litres annually.  This would be able to power a typical family car some 35,000 miles.

“On the test track we’ve driven with a distance of about 10 metres between the vehicles, and we were able to achieve a 12% fuel saving for the trailing vehicle,” says Magnus Adolfson, Scania’s Manager for Intelligent Transport Systems. “If you want to get as close as a couple of metres, then you need several automatic systems that also take control of the steering from the driver during the time that the vehicle is in the truck platoon. That’s also something we’re focusing our research on.”

How Does it Work?

The platooning system uses a combination of existing technologies that have been tweaked to make the system as safe and effective as possible.

Sophisticated Cruise Control

Effectively, the system uses an improved ‘advanced adaptive cruise control’ (ACC), a system that we have enjoyed using on cars for many years now.  Rather than setting a desired speed, the driver selects a desired distance from the vehicle in front which is maintained through the use of radar and cameras.

Driver Aids – Autonomous Braking

Legislation that came into force as recently as November 2015 compels all new trucks over 8 tonnes GVW to be fitted with ‘Autonomous Emergency Braking’ systems – AEB for short.  This means that the driver is taken out of the equation if an accident is likely.

These systems have been fitted to trucks (as an option) for a number of years.  They have clearly proven themselves so effective in stopping the vehicle that they have made their way into legislation.

So we have been able to automatically keep our distance from the moving truck in front and automatically come to an emergency stop for some years.  So what’s new?

Steering by Wire

Volvo Truck (well) controlled by a small hamster

Truck steering systems have become more sophisticated with steering columns becoming a thing of the past with ‘drive by wire’ control. These systems have been wonderfully demonstrated by Volvo Trucks in a series of YouTube videos – one involving a hamster steering a truck by running around a wheel attached to the steering wheel and the second showing a small girl controlling a 32 tonne truck using a remote controller.

Volvo (badly) controlled remotely by 4-year old

Technology that steers trucks using electrical inputs is therefore mainstream and used on our roads every day.

Making it Work

Even if platooning can be made to work technically – safely and reliably – it is of no use unless a system is developed to ‘book a vehicle’ into the convoy.  Simply stumbling across a platoon and tagging along cannot be an option. RHA’s Richard Burnett agrees, “In addition to the concerns of the motorist, is platooning practical for the haulier? Does it make operational sense?” The truck makers are already looking at this. To develop a system to coordinate platoons, Sweden’s Scania is focusing on its COMPANION joint research project with KTH Royal Institute of Technology. The next stage of development involves coordinating truck convoys, thereby making the whole logistics system more efficient. Scania’s researchers are designing a system that allows transport managers to input the routes their vehicles will take, with the system then finding joint routes with other operators who can ‘platoon up’.

An additional issue is related to the length of these platoons and how it might affect other road users.  The maximum length of a tractor unit and trailer combination is currently 16.5 metres in the UK.  Add an extra ten metre gap between a platoon of ten vehicles and you get something that is more than a quarter of a kilometre long.  Would the average UK motorist be able to contend with this moving obstruction when turning off a motorway junction? We have all seen most drivers leaving it to the last minute to turn off after accelerating past slower traffic.  This may therefore lead to platooning in the centre lane or lane three.  Not a popular alternative with car drivers.

UK Leading The Way?

The Department for Transport claims that it would like the UK to ‘lead the way’ in testing platoons.  It is difficult to see this happening when all the manufacturers are based in Sweden, (Volvo, Scania), Germany, (Daimler, MAN), Italy, (Iveco) and France (Renault). However, eight new projects have recently been awarded £20 million in funding from the UK Government to research and develop enhanced communication between vehicles and roadside infrastructure or urban information systems, including new ‘talking car technologies’. Some of this has been awarded to a consortium looking at tyre pressures and safety concerns – an area ignored in the projects to date.

Is the UK a suitable test bed? Our road network is amongst the world’s most congested with the greatest number of junctions.  It is more likely that the UK would be used in the final instance as a ‘stress test’ rather than involved in the fundamental testing process.  It is unlikely that the R&D departments will be upping sticks from Sweden and Germany to spend time in Cumbria.

 

The UK has the reputation in Europe for being ‘Tail-End Charlie’ in accepting and promoting environmental improvements in commercial vehicle technology.  Germany and others were offering significant financial incentives for truck operators to become early adopters of Euro 6 technologies (and the emissions standards that came before them), whilst the UK government offered a few hundred pounds incentive to invest in new technology, the cost of which ran into the tens of thousands.

Consider also, the levels of support from the relevant governments.  Historically, the UK government has been less than supportive of the UK road haulage industry and we see no reason why this approach should suddenly change.  The level of support from the Netherlands is already far greater than the UK – they have also authorised the testing of platooning on their roads and are actively promoting the system with impressive glossy brochures.

During its Presidency of the European Union in 2016, the Netherlands will put together a European Truck Platooning Challenge. This will involve various brands of automated trucks driving in platoons. The Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, Mrs. drs. M.H. Schultz van Haegen said, “The Netherlands now offers an international testing ground for innovative mobility. Applications for cars and trucks will be warmly welcomed.”

Time will tell if the UK truly gets behind this initiative or is simply paying lip service to a high-tech scheme that is bound to grab headlines.

What Next?

Daimler already have a truck that can actually drive itself.  Sven Ennerst, Head of Truck Product Engineering at Daimler is the man behind the Future Truck 2025 Mercedes-Benz program which takes platooning one step further.

 

In May last year, their Highway Pilot autonomous truck control system won approval for trials on public highways in a (Daimler) Freightliner truck in the US state of Nevada. Then in October 2015, the German state of Baden-Wurttemberg approved trials of Mercedes-Benz trucks with the Highway Pilot system on its autobahns.

Ennerst says, “We expect a change in the organisation of the freight forwarding industry. The driver will take over many of the traffic planner’s functions. He will become more of a transport manager than a driver, from our point of view.” “One thing is for sure – the Highway Pilot system is steering the vehicle by itself. It builds a picture around the truck, looking up to 250 metres ahead, so basically it can react and drive by itself.”

Ennerst is equally concerned about the fuel efficiency of the trucks, “We are fighting like hell for every tenth of one per cent in truck efficiency gains at present,” he says. “We expect a fuel economy improvement of up to five per cent with trucks like this, as a result of less acceleration and braking and less waiting in traffic.”

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