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The self-driving truck that could reduce congestion

A self-driving 25-tonne dumper truck is being trialled in a bid to speed up UK roadworks – a move which could ease congestion on the roads.

The truck, which can carry a 40-tonne load, is being tested off the A14 in Cambridgeshire where work is under way to upgrade a 21-mile (34km) stretch of the road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

It can be operated by a person, but when it is switched to autonomous mode it is controlled by computers, with the steering wheel motionless as it rounds corners.

Fitted with gadgets originally developed for autonomous trucks in Australian mines, including a laser light unit to spot objects ahead of it, it is hoped the trucks could operate around clock.

This would mean work time-frames could be slashed.

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Julian Lamb, deputy project director on behalf of Highways England for the A14, said a shortage of drivers not an effort to replace them prompted the trial.

"It's not to replace drivers but it's to be able to respond to the capacity that we will need," he said.

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He said there was "no reason why autonomous vehicles couldn't work 24 hours per day" and that the trucks could make sites safer for workers.

The trial dumper truck, which is used to move excavated earth, has been fitted with old research gadgets developed seven years ago.

It is expected to take at least two years before autonomous trucks could be in full use.

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