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The Future of Autonomous Vehicles in Construction


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Photo courtesy of equipmentworld.com

Driverless, autonomous vehicles are set to disrupt the automobile industry as we know it. The New South Wales government has already approved trials of driverless cars on the state’s roads, with more states and territories set to follow suit as intelligent vehicle innovations continue to dominate.

In the construction industry, autonomous vehicles have a unique role to play in facilitating a raft of efficiencies and safety procedures. To discover more about the future of autonomous vehicles in construction, Jobsite ANZ spoke to Aaron Marsh, National Technology Solution Expert Manager, Construction, at Komatsu

Komatsu is a global leader in intelligent machines and related professional services across the construction, mining, and quarrying industries. 

Komatsu is a global leader in intelligent machines and related professional services across the construction, mining, and quarrying industries. They’ve had a fleet of autonomous trucks operating in the mining industry since 2008, successfully and safely moving several hundred million tonnes of material.

Latest Innovations in Driverless Technology

Marsh explains the iMC (intelligent Machine Control) technology introduced by Komatsu in 2014 provided the industry’s first fully automatic blade control system for bulldozers.

“This allows all types of dozing operations — from bulk earthmoving, to what’s known as final trim — to be done autonomously. It means significant advances in productivity and cost reduction to the end users,” says Marsh.

“This iMC technology is fully scalable to larger bulldozers, including mining class machines, and has since been extended to additional models in Komatsu’s bulldozer family.”

It means significant advances in productivity and cost reduction to the end users,” says Marsh. 

In 2017, Komatsu also launched the first of its iMC excavators, featuring a revolutionary and fully factory-integrated 3D machine control and guidance system. According to Marsh, the excavator system is designed to let operators focus on moving material efficiently, without having to worry about digging too deep or damaging the target surface.

“Our iMC technology works directly off the survey information and design plans produced by a project’s management team, using 3D design data held within the machine. This allows it to achieve up to a 60 per cent improvement in work efficiency compared with conventional construction processes,” says Marsh.

The Relationship Between Operator and Vehicle

According to Marsh, the efficiencies and productivities afforded by autonomous vehicles on the jobsite allow operators of all experience levels to use them on construction sites.

“We are seeing less experienced operators now capable of performing as if they had been operating the equipment for years. Expert operators can greatly enhance their younger colleagues’ efficiency and productivity through the combination of their own experience and technology,” Marsh notes.

“In short, this means the operator is guiding the machine while the machine operates to its maximum ability — not the operator.”

Allowing a 3-Dimensional Perspective

Marsh believes that machine automation will become mainstream across the entire construction industry, noting that autonomous trucks in particular are now proven in large mining production application.

“More and more often, machines will be able to communicate with each other, with project and fleet managers, along with project design and survey teams, so that a complete 3D-picture of a project will be developed from initial site works through to final completion,” says Marsh.

Marsh believes that machine automation will become mainstream across the entire construction industry. 

“Komatsu’s vision of the future is intelligent construction equipment communicating seamlessly with other items of plant, with project designers and planners, with site and fleet management, and with service and support crews.”

Combining these innovative methodologies and technologies, the jobsite of the future has huge potential to be safer, more productive, more efficient, and more cost-effective. 

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