Highways England has unveiled self-driving truck concept, which is being trialled on the department’s improvement of the A14 trunk road between Cambridge and Huntingdon.
The department has allocated £150,000 from its innovation designated fund into the ongoing A14 dump truck trial which is evaluating an autonomous dump truck in a controlled environment on the A14 scheme, which is considered to be the UK’s biggest road upgrade.
The trial is being undertaken by the department in partnership with CA Blackwell. It is expected to help the construction industry make important decisions regarding autonomy on UK construction sites.
CA Blackwell earthworks services supplier director Niall Fraser said: “We are delighted to have received the backing of Highways England and their Designated Funds grant for this trial and are grateful for the support and commitment of our technology providers in making it a reality.”
According to Highways England, dump trucks, which move large amounts of earth, can potentially work around the clock, making them useful in speeding up completion of roadworks.
By adopting autonomous technology, dump trucks, which are used for moving excavated soil to fill huge areas on construction sites, can cut down the risk of on-site incidents involving road workers.
Highways England said that the autonomous dump truck being trialled is remotely programmed to go through a pre-determined route. The self-driving truck is also said to have the capability to detect and avoid obstacles, other vehicles among others along the route.
Highways England A14 deputy project director Julian Lamb said: “We’re 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.”
After completion of the test, Highways England will look to deploy the technology to modernise UK construction sites.
The department expects autonomous dump trucks to take another two or three years before they are swung into full operation.