Autonomous vehicles in construction
By using a combination of LIDAR sensors, inertial measurement units (IMUs) and global positioning system (GPS) technology, ATLs and other autonomous vehicles on construction sites are able to carry out many simple but time-consuming or dangerous tasks like foundation hole digging.
Initially, ATLs and other autonomous vehicles will be used to carry out relatively simple tasks, with human intervention needed for more complex work like excavating around buried utility lines or truck loading. However, as the capabilities of the technology expand, the need for human intervention is likely to be reduced.
Benefits of autonomous vehicles in construction
The use of autonomous vehicles on construction projects not only addresses the skills shortage in the industry, there are also many clear benefits for companies including:
- Cost reduction
- Increased efficiency
- Enhanced worker safety
- Improved data and reporting
As with any new technology, autonomous vehicles face their fair share of challenges, with the key concern being cybersecurity. If governments and regulators believe that autonomous equipment is not safeguarded from hacking, they could impose heavy restrictions or even ban the technology outright. For this reason, it is likely that the use of autonomous vehicles in the construction industry will be accompanied by security technology designed to protect data and control from hacking or malicious aims. This will add a barrier to entry for most companies due to the increased costs and complexity of integrating both technologies. However it is likely that startups and companies working on the respective technologies will merge or work more closely together in the short term to deliver a more accessible solution to the industry. In comparison to the regulatory challenges that self-driving road vehicles face, these issues seem more straightforward to overcome.
An industry that has been comparatively slow to adopt new technology, the construction sector is already leading the way with autonomous vehicles. Still in their infancy and being trialled more by larger companies at this early stage, we are expecting to see this technology gain mainstream adoption very soon, despite the regulatory and security challenges that lie ahead.