Will fully functional auto pilot be the next innovative extra? Pictured here, Volvo's first self-driving Autopilot cars are deployed on public roads in Sweden. (Photo : Volvo)
Dutch officials have unveiled a plan to put self-driving trucks on the road from Rotterdam to other cities in the next few years, detailing steps that include computer simulations and truck tests on a closed track.
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In a letter explaining the proposal, Infrastructure and Environment Minister Melanie Schultz van Haegen said the Netherlands is analyzing traffic laws to pave the way for testing autonomous cars on public roads, Reuters reported.
The infrastructure minister will submit a law by early next year to allow self-driving vehicles to be tested and plans to outline specific roads and conditions conducive to testing next year, according to the Associated Press.
The five-year plan was submitted to parliament by a collective of several industry and research groups, including Transport and Logistics Netherlands, DAF Trucks, Rotterdam Port and the Netherlands Organization for Applied Scientific Research (TNO).
"We want to do the first demonstrations in the beginning of next year and roll out the trial in a controlled environment as soon as possible," said Bastiaan Krosse, a spokesman for TNO, as quoted by Reuters.
While other European nations have launched similar projects, the Dutch proposal is unique since "no other project has a hard target of bringing this to market within five years, with the backing of the government," Krosse said.
To start, self-driving trucks would be tested through computer stimulations; real-life vehicles would later be put through their paces on a closed track prior to testing on public roads. The plan is for self-driving trucks to deliver goods from Rotterdam, Europe's largest port, within five years.
"There are countless benefits," to switching to autonomous trucks, said Marianne Wuite, spokeswoman for the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment, as quoted by Reuters. "Self-driving cars need less space and therefore use asphalt more efficiently; they avert traffic jams and reduce accidents. They are also more environmentally friendly."