A UK government grant will fund the development of autonomous trucks capable of moving parts and assemblies between a Nissan plant in northern England and local businesses contributing to the car maker’s supply chain. An eight-member consortium will develop the capability for Nissan’s factory in Sunderland, near Newcastle upon Tyne.
The 800-acre Nissan site and the proof-of-concept project will assess how 5G connected and autonomous logistics operations can drive more efficiency into industrial supply chain operations. The trucks destined to perform the last-mile delivery among plant facilities weigh 40 British tonnes, or 50 U.S. tons.
StreetDrone, one of the project partners, is an Oxford-based full-stack software and hardware autonomous technology company specializing in driverless solutions for low-speed and specialist operating design domains from metropolitan zone 1 environments to campuses and manufacturing sites.
StreetDrone believes that logistics can be one of the first-commercially viable autonomous services, with its repetitive routes and the need for complex articulated-truck maneuvers in confined areas. StreetDrone ran the first public road trial of open-source vehicles with Smart Mobility Living London in 2019.
StreetDrone will develop software and hardware solutions spanning redundant braking systems, a driving robot capable of complex articulated truck maneuvers in confined areas and the integration of driverless software with telematic control for remote fleet management.
“The reality is that autonomous cars are still many years from widespread adoption,” said Mike Potts, StreetDrone’s CEO. “However, the technologies that we’ve already developed can be used in an industrial logistics setting and will quickly scale to many other similar contexts where reducing cost and increasing safety are critical factors in profitable operations.”
The project will remove the need for a safety driver and introduce tele-operation as back-up on site, aiming to demonstrate in an industrial operational environment how these autonomous technologies can drive operational efficiencies and improve productivity. This will lead to an operational blueprint for the roll-out of 5G-enabled Connected and Autonomous Logistics (CAL) across the UK and globally.
The consortium, led by the The North East Automotive Alliance is made up of businesses and institutions including Sunderland City Council, Newcastle University, Coventry University, Hitachi Transport System-owned Vantec which performs last-mile logistics for Nissan, Ferguson Transport, Connected Places Catapult, StreetDrone and Perform Green. The project is supported by Zenzic, the Department for Transport and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.