Innovate UK funding development of Autonomous Tow Tractors
Fusion Processing and Bradshaw Electric Vehicles, today, announced the awarding of Innovate UK funding to commence an exciting new partnership to develop fully autonomous (unmanned) Tow Tractors, vehicles that are used extensively in factory, warehouse and airport logistics to haul baggage trailers and goods trailers.
Autonomising electric commercial vehicles such as Tow Tractors will both improve safety and drive huge operational efficiencies in terms of refining logistics of complex environments where the smooth running and timely delivery of goods and baggage are key to larger sectors such as flight schedules and haulage where efficiency savings are counted in seconds.
Fusion Processing’s CAVstar control and sensing system will be utilised to make Bradshaw’s third generation T700 and T800 Tow Tractors fully autonomous. The state-of-the-art artificial intelligence system uses a range of sensors including LiDAR, cameras and ultrasonics to build up a picture of the environment around the vehicle and plots the most efficient safe route through it.
This means the autonomous Tow Tractors can be operated safely inside factories where GPS signal is unavailable and without the need for extensive infrastructure to be installed. The compact CAVstar system can be retrofitted to any vehicle where it controls the throttle, braking and steering systems to provide levels 3, 4 and 5 of autonomous operation. The CAVstar system will be configured for the electric vehicle and tuned to deliver more efficient throttle and braking control than is possible by a human driver, especially when pulling an eight-tonne load.
The 12-month development programme will begin in October 2022 and culminate with automated tow tractors operating safely within an operational factory or warehouse in summer 2023.
Fusion Processing CEO, Jim Hutchinson, said: “We are delighted to be awarded this Innovate UK funding, as autonomous commercial vehicles will transform the logistics of warehouses, factories and airports where tow tractors are used extensively. Fusion is already widely acknowledged as the leading provider of autonomous systems for buses, and this new project is the first of a series we will be announcing as we apply our technology to the freight and logistics markets.”
Bradshaw Electric Vehicle joint Managing Director, Drew Bradshaw, said: “Our third generation T700 and T800 Tow Tractor is the ideal model to autonomise as production lines often run a 24-hour operation and the 48-volt system and rollout battery lends itself to extended run-time applications negating the need for shift changes and down time. It will typically be hauling loads of up to 8-tonnes around complex environments where precision logistics are key to the smooth operations. We’re also particularly keen to realise the energy savings that Fusion’s autonomous CAVstar system can deliver”.