Highways England Tests Autonomous Trucks for Road Construction
【Summary】During the trials, driverless dump trucks will be used to haul excavated soil around the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon. Launching autonomous trucks is part of the agency’s massive plan to upgrade the local area’s road network.
In the UK, self-driving trucks are being tested to support critical road construction projects. Highways England, a government-owned business tasked with maintaining the country's major roadways, is spearheading this movement through recently launched trials at sites along the A14.
Blackwell, a leading earthworks contractor, will provide support for the program as a partner of the agency. Traditionally, the company deploys non-autonomous excavators that are equipped with audible safety alarms and rotating cameras to prevent collisions. If successful, the use of autonomous trucks could help cities by easing shortages in human truck drivers and boosting safety at dangerous road construction sites.
Self-driving Trials at A14
During the trials, driverless dump trucks will be used to haul excavated soil around the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon. The units are programmed to follow a set route, via a GPS tracker, laser light and external sensors. Designed for carrying heavy loads, the equipment was initially made for mining trucks in Australia. Accurate mapping allows driving precision as close as 25mm.
At the site, the bright yellow trucks operate on dirt roads, while avoiding obstacles, workers and other vehicles. Slow, steady speed limits are enforced to ensure safety within the rugged environment. Human operators monitor the self-driving dump truck from a remote location. A demonstration video of the vehicle in action showed it maneuvering open excavation sites without a driver. Cones with balloons served as safety markers for the units.
"It's not to replace drivers but it's to be able to respond to the capacity that we will need," said Julian Lamb, Deputy Project Director at Highways England.
"Road construction has changed massively over the years and the testing of trucks such as these promises to allow us to work efficiently, speeding up roadworks, giving more protection to road workers, and moving jobs to other skilled areas."
Trials are expected to continue for roughly three years before the trucks will be fully adopted for road construction. The agency highlighted that implementing regulations that support autonomous fleets could help streamline this aspect of the program. To date, Highways England has provided around $195,000 in funding for the project.
Shortage of Truck Drivers and Safety
According to Lamb, there is currently a shortage of truck drivers in the UK. Such gaps in requirements, coupled with the need to increase efficiency, are reasons why cities are looking to driverless alternatives. Indeed, self-driving trucks could perform vital tasks more consistently and for extended periods of time without breaks compared to human workers. Highways England also believes that deploying autonomous trucks could make workplaces safer, as direct interaction with machines is greatly reduced.
"The trial will enable the construction industry as a whole to be in a more informed position to make key decisions about autonomy on UK construction sites," said Lamb.
Launching autonomous trucks is part of the agency's massive plan to upgrade the local area's road network. Outlined in a 2017 report, Highways England's strategy involves transitioning to 5G infrastructure, using drones to support patrolling and smart vehicles.
Michael Cheng is a legal editor and technical writer with publications for Blackberry ISHN Magazine Houzz and Payment Week. He specializes in technology business and digesting hard data. Outside of work Michael likes to train for marathons spend time with his daughter and explore new places.
Waymo Receives Permit to Participate in California’s Autonomous Vehicle Pilot
How Do Autonomous Cars Deal with Double-parked Vehicles?
Kitty Hawk and Boeing Form Partnership to Make Flying Cars Safer
Waymo to Bring Driverless Cars to France and Japan via Nissan-Renault Partnership
Porsche Forecasts EVs Going Mainstream
Zomato Tests Drones for Food Deliveries in India
Alibaba Brings Tmall Genie to Audi, Honda and Renault Vehicles
Driverless Sensor Startup Sense Photonics Raises $26 Million in Series A Funding
- Upcoming Mercedes-Benz EQB is the Replacement For the Canceled EQC
- Lexus LF-Z Concept Previews the Brand’s Electric Future
- General Motors Confirms it Will Build an Electric Chevy Silverado Pickup, Sending its Stock Price to a Record High
- Toyota Trademarks BZ Name, Could Use Moniker for Future EVs
- Tesla Increases Pricing for Model S, Model Y, and Model 3
- Ford-backed Autonomous Driving Developer Argo AI Conducts Pilot to Study How Traffic Can Flow More Efficiently Using AI
- How a Deal With Tesla Helped Save Chinese EV Startup NIO in 2019
- LG Energy Solutions to Invest $4.5 Billion in Electric Vehicle Battery Production in the U.S. Through 2025
- Tesla Chief Elon Musk Assures Customers in China That its Vehicle Cameras Are Not Active, Addressing Recent Security Concerns
- China’s Tesla Challenger Xpeng Says Drivers Traveled Over 1 Million Kilometers in 25 Days Using its New Autonomous Driving Features