A Look Under the Hood of Self-Driving Equipment

Currently autonomous vehicle control is being developed and is on its way to the construction site. Machine learning and guidance, telematics, and remote control are all methods under consideration as options to help take the driver out of the cab.

Being able to have self-driving equipment on the jobsite does require a lot of planning and preparation. A 3D map of the existing site is created using laser scanners, total stations, mobile mapping, and aerial imaging using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones. Civil engineers then create site development plans, which are then converted to 3D models.

The autonomous machines are then deployed on site and sensors, cameras, and a global navigation satellite system (GNSS) are used to pinpoint the equipment’s location on the site. The software uses real-time data transmitted from the heavy equipment along with the 3D map of the existing site and the 3D model from the site plans to instruct the equipment where to go.

The whole time the equipment is operating it is sending back data on the work being completed so the software is continuously updating the 3D map to reflect the constantly changing environment in regards to the terrain and site conditions. The equipment is also transmitting telematics data. This real-time monitoring allows for an operator to ensure that the work is being done accurately and that the equipment is operating as efficiently as possible.

Basic automation is already here, however advanced controls and other innovations have not been developed to the point of use at the jobsite. Those types of advancements are still a bit “down the road” for self-driving equipment at the jobsite.

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