Several national media outlets are reporting a leak of UK Chancellor George Osborne's forthcoming Budget speech in which he says that driverless lorries are to be trialled on the UK's roads.
The reports quote the Department for Transport saying that the UK would "lead the way" in testing driverless "HGV platoons".
The Times reported trials would take place on the M6 in Cumbria later in 2016, with vehicles in convoy headed by a driver in the leading lorry. The newspaper said the tests would take place on a quiet stretch of the motorway.
The paper also said the plans could result in platoons of up to 10 computer-controlled lorries being driven metres apart from each other.
It said the chancellor was preparing to fund the trials as part of plans to speed up lorry deliveries and cut congestion.
A Department for Transport spokesman told the BBC: "New technology has the potential to bring major improvements to journeys and the UK is in a unique position to lead the way for the testing of connected and driverless vehicles.
"We are planning trials of HGV platoons - which enable vehicles to move in a group so they use less fuel - and will be in a position to say more in due course."
Advantages are said to be better fuel consumption and a requirement for fewer drivers, but critics say that the UK's roads are unsuitable as the junctions are relatively closely spaced and a 'train' of HGVs may cause entry and exit issues for other road users.
Mike Danby, CEO of Advanced Supply Chain, a logistics supplier for some of Britain’s biggest brands, said: “With the continuing pressure placed on road transportation with the rise of ecommerce and expanding supply chains, it is encouraging that the Government is aware of driverless technology as a potential solution to increasing fuel consumption and crippling driver shortages.
“However, driverless technology is only one of a myriad of opportunities available to the Government to address the strain on the haulage industry - an example would be offering a grant scheme for driver training. These opportunities need to be strategically explored, compared and reviewed. This will ensure the UK has the infrastructure and transportation capacities and capabilities to ensure our economy can grow unrestrained.”
Jonathan Hewitt, Executive Vice President responsible for strategy and marketing at Octo Telematics, commented: “The announcement by the Department of Transport demonstrates the pace of development in the Internet of Things and the edge towards increasingly autonomous vehicles.
"The technology behind this test enables savings not only in the cost of operating the vehicles, but also through more efficient fleet management and mechanical diagnostics. A move toward driverless vehicle technology is also expected to reduce congestion on UK motorways through the use of navigational data.
Telematics technology plays a significant role in the wider introduction of increasingly autonomous vehicles to UK roads, as a move towards driverless cars will require third party data to verify potential claims, determine liability in case of a claim, and to efficiently manage resources for larger operators of fleets.”