volvo lorry road train
Self-driving lorry convoys could improve road safety, increase fuel efficiency and allow drivers to "switch off"  Volvo

Automated 'road trains' of self-driving lorries could be tested on UK roads as early as next year, following a recently drafted proposal.

The convoy of lorries would be controlled by a driver in the front vehicle and monitored by laser sensors and infra-red cameras.

The lorries behind would still have their own drivers, however they would be able to "switch off" for most of the journey, allowing them to sleep, read or simply "sit back and enjoy a relaxed lunch".

Following tests of its Safe Road Trains for the Environment (SARTRE) programme in 2012, Volvo said in a statement: "The project aims to deliver improved comfort for drivers, who can now spend their time doing other things while driving.

"The project is addressing the three cornerstone transportation issues of environment, safety and congestion while at the same time encouraging driver acceptance through the prospect of increased driver comfort."

Driverless Cars on UK Roads have raised concernsIBTimes UK

The plan for road tests, devised by the Department for Transport, follows the announcement last month that the relevant safety laws that currently prevent autonomous vehicles from operating on public roads are to be reviewed.

"There are potential benefits, notably reduced costs for haulage firms and reduced congestion for motorists, so there is sense in looking into it," a government source who revealed the proposals told the Sunday Times.

The so-called 'road trains' have already drawn criticism from drivers' associations who claim the lorries could become a hindrance to other road users.

"It's a complicated one and road users will naturally have concerns about it," said Paul Watters, head of transport policy at the AA. "If the lorries are following each other closely, it might be hard to spot the road signs on the near side of the motorway.

"Putting it into practice would mean a complete redesign of the signage system. It would also make exit and entry very difficult on motorways, so the convoys would have to separate at every junction."