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Aecom and Amey Receive Funding to Build Driverless Cars for Industrial Applications

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【Summary】Amey will use the newly acquired funds to develop a vehicle prototype that will conduct a myriad of different essential services around cities. Additionally, the business wants to apply the emerging technology to everyday tasks, such as grass cutting and street cleaning.

Michael Cheng    Apr 21, 2017 4:38 AM PT
Aecom and Amey Receive Funding to Build Driverless Cars for Industrial Applications

Outside of private car and commercial trucking sectors, driverless technology is still very much in demand. Self-driving platforms can be used to automate deliveries in urban locations, improve mass transportation systems and shuttle groups of people to various destinations.

For industrial applications, leaders currently pioneering the development of autonomous vehicles include Amey, a United Kingdom-based infrastructure service provider that was founded in 1921, and Aecom, a global engineering firm that ranks 156 in the 2016 Fortune 500 list. Both companies secured funding from Innovate UK and the Centre for Connected & Autonomous Vehicles – Amey received $320,008 (£250,000) and Aecom was awarded $5,376,147 (£4.2 million).

Automating Industrial Services

Amey will use the newly acquired funds to develop a vehicle prototype that will conduct a myriad of different essential services around cities. The group is in the process of building driverless cars that will gather real-time data in urban environments. The sensors on the vessel are designed to monitor the condition of roads, bridges and surfaces. Additionally, the business wants to apply the emerging technology to everyday tasks, such as grass cutting and street cleaning.

If successful, the self-driving units may replace teams of inspectors and cleaning crews, which can help ease government budgets for city maintenance. The company is also interested in honing commercial platooning technology for large-scale deliveries. Amey researchers plan to start with a string of three trucks, at speeds of 70 mph.

Easing Road Congestion

Aecom's intentions for its share of funding from the UK government are massive. The wildly successful firm was assigned to develop and deploy an autonomous pilot program for moving or transporting large groups of people around hospitals, airports and tourist destinations. The overall goal of the program is to reduce road congestion and improve driving efficiency rates.

In 2015, Aecom revealed its interest in driverless technology during a Q&A session with Urban Land Institute (ULI). Christopher Choa, Chairman of the ULI UK Infrastructure Council and Vice President of AECOM's London office, dished out some very interesting statistics surrounding road congestion and the company's plans to disrupt such issues with self-driving technology.

"Currently in Europe, up to 30 percent of urban land is devoted to roadways and parking. In the U.S., the number goes up to 50 percent. Potentially, 90 percent of that available road space could be turned over to development and public realm," said Choa.

Choa further explained that driverless vehicles could make parking lots obsolete, allowing engineering firms to step in and repurpose the structures for residential or commercial use. The Aecom VC also clarified that more space can be allocated for playgrounds, bike stands and landscaping. In order for Choa's vision to come to fruition, autonomous vehicles must curb the number of cars on public roads by a factor of ten.

"Another myth is that autonomous vehicles will be marketed primarily to individual owners. That's not likely. It's really big fleet operators—think of Uber, ZipCar—that will make the driverless access available. It's a data-driven technology—think more Google [Waymo] and less Ford," said Choa.

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