The European Commission has awarded a nearly $27 million grant to a 29-partner consortium to help develop autonomous trucks capable of performing logistics operations in extreme weather conditions.
The All Weather Autonomous Real logistics operations and Demonstrations (AWARD) will kick-off in 2021 under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 program. Backed by $100 billion in funding since 2014, Horizon 2020 is the EU’s biggest-ever research and innovation program. It also funds the EU’s ENSEMBLE program, which is developing pre-standards for Level 3 multi-brand truck platooning and uniform regulations to govern its use.
The EU sees autonomous trucking as a key to the bloc’s future economic competitiveness. It has outlined the growing need for connected and automated driving systems for heavy commercial vehicles, called “platooning,” to improve the safety and efficiency of freight transport across the continent’s dense, crowded road system.
According to a release, the AWARD project lead is French AV software maker EasyMile. The company’s vehicle-agnostic software stack integrates next-generation radars, cameras and LiDAR sensors with real time data-crunching algorithms. It has been tested in extreme weather ranging from snow and ice to desert heat.
“Addressing challenges such as harsh weather operations are essential to real-world, full-scale freight operations,” EasyMile Managing Director Benoit Perrin said in a statement. “EasyMile has built strong experience in automated driving. We’re excited our technology is at the forefront of this call.”
The consortium comprises a deliberate mix of leading companies, growing ones and research organizations that the EU believes can pave the way to replicate and sustain project results industry-wide. It will run a cost-benefit analysis to assess the added value and commercial viability of automated systems in real logistics operations.
Members were drawn from heavy-duty vehicle manufacturers, AV technology suppliers, AV fleet operations companies, AV consulting firms, labs and organizations using autonomous road transport systems. EasyMile will also work with AV logistics operators from factories, warehouses, ports and airports, as well as government regulators during the three-year effort.
As part of AWARD, UK-based Navtech Radar will develop a new, cost-effective radar based on its Collision Avoidance System (CAS) prototype that will reduce size and speed rotation.
“Not only will it be able to update twice as fast, but we will be able to do this with a unit that’s almost half the size of the currently available models and at a suitable price point for the market,” George England, Navtech’s technical lead for industrial automation, said in a release. “This represents an important breakthrough that will enable our high-quality sensors to be more applicable for commercial vehicles.”
Photo Credit: Volvo Group