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Autonomous truck tested on A14 upgrade in UK first

autonomous dump truck

A self-driving truck is being tested for the first time in the UK on Highways England’s £1.5bn A14 improvement between Cambridge and Huntingdon.

The autonomous vehicle, which is designed to transport excavated material to fill large areas on construction sites, is being tested in a controlled environment on the A14 scheme. Highways England has invested £150,000 from its innovation designated fund into the A14 dump truck trial.

The truck is programmed remotely to follow a pre-determined route and has the capability to detect and avoid obstacles.

US-based firm Autonomous Solutions Inc (ASI) developed the technology, while South African firm Sedna has been tasked with integrating it on the A14 scheme.

A Highways England spokesperson said: “The dump trucks, which move huge amounts of earth, provide the potential to work around the clock, so could help reduce the length of time roadworks are on the ground. And by being autonomous they reduce the risk of road workers being involved in incidents on site.”

Highways England deputy project director for the A14 Julian Lamb added: “We are increasingly looking to technological advances to help us safely bring improvements to drivers on England’s motorways and major A-roads.

“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.

“The trial we are leading with our partner CA Blackwell 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.”

sedna

Sedna engineering director Peter Dormehl assists with integrating the technology for the truck to drive autonomously

Highways England anticipates that the technology will be adopted more widely following the completion of the trial. “It is expected to be another two or three years before autonomous dump trucks are in full operation,” Highways England claimed.

Drones are also being employed on the A14 scheme to measure the extent of earthworks and to carry out environmental and ecological surveys.

The project has its own drone pilots on site, all licensed to fly. Three types of drone are being used: survey specific ones, media grade for taking progress images and movies plus, social grade drones for keeping social media up to date.

“We’re trying to get the message out to everyone, including of course the public. We have a media area where those working on the project can catch up with progress across the job, viewing time-lapse videos, for example, of specific events.” It is part of the initiative to help ensure the A14’s integrated delivery team – hailed by Lamb as a major factor in the project’s success so far – retains its constructive cohesiveness.

The integrated delivery team working on the A14 project includes a construction arm which comprises a construction joint venture between Skanska, Costain and Balfour Beatty. It also includes a design joint venture between Atkins and Jacobs. CA Blackwell is also undertaking a large proportion of the earthworks on the project.

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