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AT Trials at Ports – The Future of Automation

July 11, 2022
Press Photo of Autonomous Trucks

A few weeks ago we posted a Facebook post asking our audience to give their thoughts on the industry’s future – the answers were diverse, to say the least!

Then we put out another post – this time to talk about the automated truck trials that are taking place at the Port of Felixstowe in October, and the post went wild with a range of opinions on what that means for jobs in the industry in the future. Let’s explain a little more about what took place.

Macintyre Transport – along with the rest of the haulage community – were invited along to the Port to see what the automated truck trials were going to look like and what changes drivers could expect when they get to the port.

A presentation was made to enable us to support the Port of Felixstowe in updating our drivers and understanding the new procedures and H&S issues that will be implemented once the AT’s are fully functional. Safety instructions for external vehicles entering the port were provided, which include the need for drivers to remain in their cabs and to always give way to driverless vehicles.

So, what are automated trucks?

Hutchinson Ports have chosen Qomolo as their electric vehicle makes of choice and 6 new Q Trucks will be supporting movements at Felixstowe from October.

Qomolo is billed as the Chinese answer to Tesla. They say their Q-Truck can haul up to 80 tonnes. But with a range varying between 45-186 miles depending on the weight of the load, it’s certainly not the rise of the machines or the end of drivers’ jobs!

The driverless vehicles will work alongside and provide additional support to the port’s fleet of manual internal tractors.

Equipped with advanced AI machine-learning technology and a wireless charging system, the Q Truck can operate non-stop for more than 24 hours, manufacturers are confident a full charge will take no more than 2 hours thanks to a massive battery located where the cab used to be.

We understand the trucks utilise the advanced ‘LiDAR’ light detection and range technology, that will enable the truck to instantaneously (and accurately) detect and survey its surroundings in all directions, generating a precise, internal 3D map, and allowing it to accurately analyse and avoid obstacles and collisions.

These trials will find out how accurate these claims turn out to be!

When will we see automated trucks on the road?

At Macintyre we envisage automation technology making a driver’s life easier, rather than putting them out of a job. We’ve been using automation for years, such as reversing radars and the Lane Departure Warning System (LDWS).

The trend towards more technology in cabs will continue to grow – like them or loathe them – mirror cams are here to stay and they have many other benefits aside from improved visibility. They can be turned on and off for checks when in the cab, allowing drivers to feel safer when parked up at night, and they’re even making better fuel efficiencies when compared with standard mirrors.

New Technology will make our fleets safer and more efficient, but AI cannot outthink the human mind and our drivers are the lifeline of our business – they’re not going anywhere.