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Electric, connected and autonomous vehicles in ports

Gothenburg, Sweden (PortSEurope) February 8, 2021 – “Complete driving automation” (Level 5), in which the vehicle performs all driving tasks itself, without human intervention and even without space for a human driver, is currently not possible. Among other things, due to a lack of infrastructure and a lack of regulatory approval. Semi-autonomous trucks are already being developed and tested, news portal Innovation Origin writes. Volvo
is currently developing Vera, a self-driving electric vehicle with level 5 autonomy that does not have a cab for a driver. It is intended to travel on a predefined route and is being tested in Gothenburg on a route that involves the transport of goods from a logistics centre to a port terminal. Volvo Trucks electric, connected and autonomous vehicle Vera will form part of an integrated solution to transport goods for this service. The project is a collaboration between Volvo Trucks and the ferry and logistics company DFDS. The connected system allows for a continuous flow of goods from a DFDS’ logistics centre to an APM Terminals port facility. Einride, another Swedish company, is developing an autonomous truck. As with Vera, there is no space for a driver here either, but the vehicle can be controlled by a person via remote control. While Vera is mainly designed for short-haul transport, the single-ride pod can be used for large-volume shipments as well as for city deliveries and distribution traffic. Level 5 autonomy is not always the goal. Most developers have set level 4 as their goal where the vehicle is able to take over all driving tasks, but geofencing is required and human takeover is still possible. Embark wants to develop autonomous vehicles that can drive from one hub to another. The semi-trailer would mainly drive on the freeway. Container terminals are closed, structured environments that provide ideal conditions for the deployment of vehicles that can navigate without human input, says a story published by Konekranes, a manufacturer of heavy lifting equipment headquartered in Finland. There are various drivers for adopting automation, including self-driving vehicles, at ports. For one, automated container handling equipment is often able to handle container traffic faster and with more precision than equipment driven by humans. Automation is intended to give the terminal operator more control over logistics and contribute to more predictable and reliable operations, since it is easier to plan and track the movement of containers. A single person can remotely monitor several different self-driven vehicles. Still, savings are realized not only through reduced labour costs, but also through shorter lead times, more consistent and predictable service quality, and increased safety, since automation minimizes the potential for human error. Autonomous vehicles are built to optimise efficiency in acceleration, braking, and speed, helping to increase fuel efficiency and reduce emissions. Most will be electric, reducing dependence on fossil fuels. Moving toward automated operation is a way for ports to address environmental concerns and promote the use of renewable energy. As container flows coming off container ships increase and shipping lines demand better performance from container terminals, partial or full automation will likely become a must for many ports. Though Svend Videbaek, product marketing specialist at Konecranes, admits that automation is not a cure-all in container handling, he believes it will be much bigger in the future. “Eventually, major container terminals around the world will all become fully automated – hardly anyone in the industry disputes this. However, getting there will involve a lot of evolution covering technology, public infrastructure, and regional or even continental cooperation between countries. The drivers for the effort are clear: more eco-efficient, safer and cleaner worldwide transportation of containers, that today carry about 75% of the world’s goods,” Videbaek says. The automation of container handling is also likely to go beyond ports, as experiments with automated ships and self-driving truck convoys are currently underway. In a number of international ports, automated vehicles already perform many of the routine driving tasks with minimal input or intervention from human beings. “Container handling automation is a megatrend in ports, with a history going back at least 10 years,” confirms Videbaek. Konecranes is quite involved in this, offering a range of semi-automated and fully automated vehicles for container handling. These include automated straddle carriers and sprinters, automated terminal trucks and automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for horizontal transport in container yards. Copyright (C) PortSEurope. All Rights Reserved. 2021.

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