The first autonomous trucks to find use in a port in Europe have been deployed at Felixstowe in England, the port announced Dec. 13.
The Port of Felixstowe is the biggest and busiest container port in England, and one of the largest in Europe. Providing some of the deepest water close to the open sea of any European port, it welcomes approximately 2,000 ships each year. About 17 shipping lines operate from Felixstowe, offering 33 services to and from more than 700 ports around the world.
The port is now introducing autonomous terminal tractor units into mixed traffic container terminal operations. “These new autonomous trucks represent a significant technological step forward for the Port of Felixstowe,” Clemence Cheng, chief executive officer at the Port of Felixstowe, said in a statement. “The tools underpinning port operations have evolved continuously and we already have a range of very advanced systems and equipment in place, but this is the first time we will have wholly driverless vehicles.”
The first two battery-powered autonomous trucks (ATs), were supplied by Shanghai-based AI startup Westwell.
The autonomous trucks use a digital map, which is loaded into a fleet management system that controls the navigation around the port. The vehicles then combine that map with its on-board GPS navigation to track its real-time position. They also use a 360-degree camera to provide real-time all-around vision and LiDAR to create a 3-D map of their surroundings. With the support of an Extreme Precise Position (EPP) system, each vehicle “can achieve positioning accuracy of 2 centimeters and a steering angle accuracy of 0.5 degrees,” Karen Poulter, project director and Hutchison Ports UK chief information officer, said in a statement.
The autonomous trucks have been through a thorough commissioning and testing program. They are to be used initially to transport containers between the port’s Trinity and North Rail terminals.
“The ATs have a range of built-in safety features which will allow them to navigate effectively and safely within our container terminals,” Cheng said in a statement. “Safety is our number one priority. This applies equally to technological developments and especially when introducing new equipment into live terminal operations.”