Autonomous trucks introduced at UK port

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Hutchinson Ports is introducing autonomous terminal tractor units (ATs) to assist in mixed traffic container terminal operations at the Port of Felixstowe.

Provided by Westwell, a manufacturer specialising in AI solutions, the trucks use a digital map loaded onto a fleet navigation system that works in tandem with an on-board GPS to navigate around the port.

Project Director and Hutchison Ports UK Chief Information Officer Karen Poulter explained: “The ATs use LiDAR – a light sensing technology that creates a 3D map of an AT’s surroundings using a laser and receiver, which, when combined with its on-board 360-degree cameras, provide real-time, all-round ‘vision’.  This enables it to ‘see’ everything instantaneously in its vicinity to allow safe and accurate navigation.”

The trucks will initially be used to ‘transport containers between the port’s Trinity and North Rail terminals’.

Clemence Cheng, Chief Executive at the Port of Felixstowe, said: “These new autonomous trucks represent a significant technological step forward for the Port of Felixstowe. 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.”

He was eager to emphasise the importance of safety at the port, assuring people that “the ATs have a range of built-in safety features which will allow them to navigate effectively and safely within [the]container terminals”.


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