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Tech 101: Autonomous Machinery | Construction Dive

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The Construction Dives Tech 101 series provides quick top-line information on new construction technologies on topics such as digital twins, 5G networks, and exoskeletons. Click here for the entire series.

As with many new technologies under construction, the use of self-driving cars in the field today is unusual. However, this technology has permeated both original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) and the increasing use of modified technology to make traditional vehicles self-propelled.

Contractors are looking at this new technology in the construction space. Tom Emison, vice president of strategy and innovation for Kraus-Anderson, a construction management company based in Minneapolis, told Construction Dive: “As a result, we need to recognize and embrace new technologies that will be commercially viable for us.”

What you need to know

Ali Asmari, Head of AI and Machine Learning at New Hopage, said: York-based ULC Robotics, which recently launched the automated Robotic Roadworks & Excavation System. .. “

Incumbents in construction machinery such as Caterpillar, Komatsu, Volvo, Hitachi and Liebherr are already building machines that roll from factory floors with built-in automation. For example, Caterpillar claims to own the world’s largest autonomous truck already in transit 2 billion tonnes of mining material for clients in the industry.

However, start-ups such as SafeAI and Built Robotics are also busy developing technologies that can convert existing vehicles into autonomous machines. SafeAI CEO Bibhrajit Halder says the benefits there come down to cost.

Halder said your typical construction company already has hundreds of existing equipment. If you want to use them autonomously, it makes absolutely sense to retrofit those existing assets.

Beyond the machine itself, other technologies are evolving in collaboration with autonomous devices. Machine learning and guidance, telematics, and remote control are one of the technologies that are becoming available in the construction sector from an application perspective and play a key role in self-driving cars at construction sites.

Construction application

Autonomous technologies for construction include safer working conditions, improved cost savings through optimized fuel consumption and operation, as well as operators leaving the cab to remotely control equipment and traditional dirt and material transfer. Instead of promising to develop a new job class that engages in the analysis and improvement of machine data and construction.

“It’s wider than just a self-driving car,” said Carol Sigmund, a lawyer who is a partner in the construction practice group at law firm Greenspoon Marder. “We also need to think about remote control and monitoring. The fleet of dump trucks moving from the field to the repository may be autonomous, but someone monitors them on a computer. People install, operate, and debug these systems. , Needs maintenance. “

Basic autonomy is already part of some existing construction machinery. Bulldozer blade control that consistently optimizes the angle of attack using machine learning, backhoes featuring automated excavation return, and rider comfort control (available for over 10 years) envision repetitive tasks. This is an example of technology that can be used to improve the efficiency of operators. The machine is not in full control.

Second, there are efficiency benefits. Today’s dataset already includes idle time, fuel consumption, and maintenance tracking, and as users dig deeper into the analytical opportunities available from machine data and use that data to improve machine learning. Automation may progress.

Another advantage revolves around labor. This problem only gets worse as today’s workers get older.

“It’s getting harder and harder to find someone with 30 years of experience as a heavy equipment operator,” said Jason Anetsberger, senior product manager at Rolling Meadow at Komatsu America, based in Illinois. It was. Familiar with more techniques. [them]And finally, it’s a much more powerful and productive machine. “

Obstacle

Despite these advantages, the adoption of autonomous technology for construction is relatively slow compared to industries such as mining and agriculture. One reason is that construction sites have less scope for more focused, predictable and repetitive tasks than the defined terrain enjoyed by agriculture and mining. Rapid changes in field conditions can hinder the deployment of full-scale unmanned operation of heavy equipment.

Construction site variables are simply different from other use cases, said Tom Webb, vice president of strategic initiatives at Sugar Land, a Texas-based heavy civil engineering construction management software company, HCSS.

“By the nature of construction, it’s not enough to work in a lab environment. How many contractors have a shovel on the ground and find something unexpected there?” Often damaged to something already on the ground. Giving can have a significant impact on a construction project and you may not know that the machine will stop if it hits something.

Cost is also an issue, especially given the misalignment of equipment upgrade schedules for many companies. But now, as modifications to existing vehicles become more common, that hurdle may go down.

According to SafeAIs Halder, the construction industry has said it wants to take advantage of autonomy and connect everything, but so far it hasn’t reached the price and maturity it can afford. You can see that this improves both price and maturity and accelerates adoption.

Notable Projects Driven to improve operator safety throughout the industry has led on-road construction workers to use unmanned crash trucks. Until recently, collision trucks designed to act as a collision buffer between the inattentive driver and the active work zone required a live operator. The unmanned driving technology developed by Micro Systems, based in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, was used in a pilot program with Royal Truck & Equipment, based in Coopersburg, Pennsylvania. Or injury is a measure of success, “said Rob Roy, President of Royal Truck & Equipment. North Dakota Department of Transportation autonomous shock protection vehicles are also used to protect construction workers from other drivers on the road who may not be paying attention to the construction site or may have lost control of the vehicle. I am. Developed by Kratos Defense in partnership with Royal Truck & Equipment, this technology has transformed today’s NDDOT trucks into self-driving cars. Self-driving cars are monitored and controlled by human-operated preceding vehicles and automatically track behind construction machinery without endangering the driver. The modification of an existing vehicle is the same approach that SafeAI adopted in a recent pilot with Japanese contractor Obayashi at a quarry near Cupertino, California. Equipped with a Caterpillar 725 articulated dump truck, the company demonstrated a key feature in the field, the roadhole dump cycle. Sensors and adapters on both the truck’s cab and external bumper help the dump truck confirm and follow commands. Researchers at Baidu Research Robotics and the University of Maryland recently announced the Autonomous Excavator System (AES), which can perform material-loading tasks similar to experienced human operators while operating continuously for more than 24 hours. ..For more information

Click here for autonomous construction machinery

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