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Ford Motor Company and the logistics giant DP World London Gateway have conducted a trial with a simulated autonomous vehicle to demonstrate how useful such future technology could be to those managing, and employed on, large worksites. The scheme took place at DP World London Gateway – one of the UK’s fastest growing ports, which is located 40 km east of central London.
The hub already embraces automated technology as an intrinsic part of its operations as a deep-sea container port.
The underlying intention behind the pilot programme is to identify new opportunities and models for autonomous vehicle operations – in particular understanding how existing processes and human interactions can work alongside automated vehicles.
For the trial, Ford used a specially adapted Transit fitted out to mimic the look of an actual self-driving vehicle with a driver concealed within a ‘Human Car Seat’.
Employees at the company’s reception building loaded packages into secure lockers in the rear of the Transit.
Then, at set delivery times, the Transit travelled to the main reception 3.5 km away so that colleagues there could retrieve them.
The initiative is part of Ford’s Self-Driving Research Programme, designed to help businesses understand how autonomous vehicles could benefit their operations.
Richard Balch, director, Autonomous Vehicles and Mobility, Ford of Europe., says: “It was incredible to see how enthusiastically the team at DP World embraced working with the support of a self-driving vehicle. We are continuing to work very closely with our customers to learn how these vehicles can benefit their businesses and it is exciting to see first-hand the impact this can have across a diverse range of locations. What worked so well at DP World premises could equally be of benefit at universities, airports and manufacturing facilities.”
Ernst Schulze, UK chief executive of DP World, adds: “Having what appeared to be a self-driving vehicle on site created a real buzz. Everyone wanted to use it. Popping in the car to pick up a package from elsewhere on site might not seem like it takes that long, but across multiple journeys over weeks, months and years, this can add up to a lot of time and money.”
Ford has been testing self-driving technology in major cities across the U.S. in partnership with Argo AI.
Ford plans to invest around $7 billion (€6.02 billion) in autonomous vehicles during 10 years through to 2025 – $5 billion (€4.3 billion) of that from 2021 forward – as part of its mobility initiatives.