Autonomous construction

Autonomous construction vehicles

Autonomous dozers, excavators, load-carriers and haul trucks can be used for excavating and grading soil on construction sites. Small rovers can follow workers around carrying tools and materials. The vehicles are often connected to allow for coordinated actions.

Autonomous construction vehicles such as dozers, excavators, load-carriers and haul trucks can be used for excavating and grading soil on the construction site. One operator can supervise several autonomous machines working simultaneously.

Another, smaller kind of autonomous or semi-autonomous construction vehicles are called rovers. They are able to follow workers around on the construction site carrying tools and materials.

The autonomous vehicles operate by means of LiDAR sensors detecting obstacles in the surroundings, inertial measurement units (IMUs), and global positioning system (GPS) technology. This allows the vehicles to know their exact position on site, and typically a geofence prohibits the vehicles from operating off-site. The vehicles are often connected to other autonomous and non-autonomous vehicles on-site, allowing for  coordinated actions.

Benefits and challenges

  • Improved safety as the operator is detached from the machine and hereby is less exposed to shock, dust, heavy lifting and vibrations.
  • Improved labour productivity, as one operator can manage several machines
  • Whereas autonomous cars are restricted by regulatory challenges before they can move to public areas, autonomous construction vehicles can be tested within enclosed industrial settings
  • Tight construction schedules enabled, as the machines can operate efficiently 24 hours a day.
  • Precision work like working around buried utilizes and operation in high traffic conditions is challenging

Application examples

Built Robotics retrofits existing construction vehicles, adding e.g. sensors, cameras, GPS and Wi-Fi to make autonomous dozers, excavators and skid steers. So far, they have seven vehicles and have completed 10 construction project, summing up to 6000 hours of autonomous operation. Built Robotics sell and rent the vehicles to construction companies, and charge a usage fee for the time the vehicles are used in autonomous mode (www.zdnet.com).

Volvo Construction Equipment rethinks the design of the autonomous vehicles they are developing for construction, as there is no need to make room for an operator. It has developed eight prototypes of an battery-electric, autonomous load carrier, HX2, which are currently being tested in collaboration with the construction company Skanska. Furthermore, Volvo is developing an autonomous wheel loader, which communicates with a nearby drone (www.volvoce.com). 

The French company Bouygues Construction uses an autonomous rover, EffiBOT, on to follow construction workers around on site, carrying tools and materials. EffiBOT can carry 300 kg and was originally design for the logistics industry (www.theb1m.com).

Development stage

Large, autonomous haul trucks are currently used on mining sites in e.g. Australia and the U.S. Other autonomous vehicles are currently being tested in construction, and will probably be available on the market within a few years.

Construction impact

Autonomous construction vehicles will main affect the construction phase of construction projects.

Read more

www.equipmentworld.com

techcrunch.com

www.forconstructionpros.com

http://www.technologycards.net/the-technologies/autonomous-construction-vehicles
18 OKTOBER 2019