May 06, 2019 – Earthmoving contractor CA Blackwell has put self-driving trucks to work for the first time on Britain’s biggest road upgrade.
Previously tried and tested in Australia, the concept is now being trialled on Highways England’s improvement of the A14 between Cambridge and Huntingdon.
Highways England has committed £150,000 from its innovation designated fund into the site truck trial.
The dump trucks have the potential to work around the clock and by being autonomous reduce the risk of road workers being involved in incidents on site.
Highways England deputy project director for the A14, Julian Lamb, said: “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.”
The autonomous dump truck being tested in a controlled environment on the A14 is programmed remotely to follow a pre-determined route and has the capability to detect and avoid obstacles and other vehicles along the route as it drives.
Niall Fraser, Director of earthworks services supplier CA Blackwell, 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.”
Once testing is complete, Highways England hopes to adopt the technology to modernise UK construction sites.
It is expected to be another two or three years before autonomous dump trucks are in full operation.
Blackwell is undertaking a large proportion of the earthworks on the A14 widening and improvement scheme for Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Costain.
It has deployed over 100 people and associated items of earthmoving plant into the scheme, which should be complete in 2020.