Colas has announced plans to build and trial the UK’s first autonomous impact protection vehicle (IPV).
The company is working with two US firms – Royal Truck and Equipment and Micro Systems – to develop an autonomous system in an IPV which would remove the need for a driver to be seated in the cab, therefore reducing risk for road workers.
Fitted with an electro-mechanical system and fully integrated sensor suite, the autonomous IPV has a leader/follower capability that allows it to follow a lead vehicle, unmanned. GPS position data is transmitted from the leader vehicle to the follower vehicle, which it uses to follow the same path and at the same speed along a route.
Initially deployed for use in the US military, the drone technology has been tailored by Royal Truck and Equipment and Micro Systems for the highways industry. Engineers from the two companies will visit the UK to work with Colas to install the technology on a new IPV.
The vehicle will be trialled on a live work site under controlled conditions. All data collected during the trial period will be analysed and incorporated into the roll out of future vehicles in the UK and Europe.
“As a company that offers traffic management to clients across the UK, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the safety of both our operatives and the road using public. By collaborating with these two US companies, we strongly believe that we are on the brink of something which could have a huge positive impact on the industry at large,” said Colas associate director Dennis Gregg.
While various industry initiatives have lowered the risk to road workers, Transport Research Laboratory figures show that in the five-year period to 2011, there were 149 collisions with IPVs reported on the Highways England network alone.
Earlier this month, Highways England raised concerns over road workers’ safety due to drivers ignoring highways closures.