The UK’s biggest road upgrade, the A14 improvement scheme between Cambridge and Huntingdon, being delivered by a joint venture comprising Balfour Beatty, Skanska and Costain, has unveiled self-driving trucks.
The trucks, which could help speed up roadworks and improve journeys for drivers up and down the country and reduce the time of construction, are being tested for the first time in England on the project.
Previously tried and tested in Australia, one autonomous dump truck is now being trialled in a controlled environment on the project. The truck is programmed remotely to follow a pre-determined route and has the capability to detect and avoid obstacles and other vehicles along the route as it drives.
The dump truck, which will move huge amounts of earth, provides the potential to work around the clock, so could help reduce the length of time roadworks are on the ground. With the projects focus on safety, the trucks also reduce the risk of road workers being involved in incidents on site.
Julian Lamb, Highways England Deputy Project Director, said: “We’re increasingly looking to technological advances to help us safely bring improvements to drivers on England’s motorways and major A roads.
“Road construction has changed massively over the years and the testing of trucks such as these promises to allow us to work efficiently, speeding up roadworks, giving more protection to road workers, and moving jobs to other skilled areas.
“The trial we are leading with our partner CA Blackwell will enable the construction industry as a whole to be in a more informed position to make key decisions about autonomy on UK construction sites.”
Once testing is complete, Highways England hopes to adopt the technology to modernise UK construction sites. Full roll-out is expected in the following years.
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Notes to editors:
- Balfour Beatty’s highways business designs, constructs and manages many of the UK’s major highways. The business also delivers complex Design Build Finance Operate and Early Contractor Involvement schemes.
- Through constant innovation and the use of cutting-edge technology, Balfour Beatty supports clients to deliver optimal highways experiences to the travelling public, better connecting communities and creating more reliable and safer journeys. From project conception through to completion, Balfour Beatty has a continued focus on future proofing its schemes. This includes creating smart motorways and preparing routes to welcome autonomous vehicles.
- Current projects include Balfour Beatty’s £292m construction contract to widen a critical and complex 10-mile stretch of the existing A14, as part of Highways England’s £1.5bn A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme. The team also has extensive experience of using the latest technology to tackle congestion and is working towards the completion of Manchester Smart Motorway scheme M62 junctions 18-20 and M60 junctions 8-10.
- Recently completed Highways schemes include the £70m dualling scheme to upgrade a 2.5 mile section of the A21 in Kent from single to dual carriageway. The project has delivered a safer and more streamlined route for the travelling public, also supporting the local economy in this area of Kent.