Colas will begin building and trialling an autonomous impact protection vehicle (IPV) in the UK this year.
The use of an autonomous system in an IPV would remove the need for a driver to be sat in what is a potentially dangerous place to be - the cab of an IPV. Although advances have been made in recent years to lower the risk to road workers through various industry initiatives, in the five-year period to 2011, there were 149 collisions with IPVs reported on the Highways England network alone, according to the Transport Research Laboratory.
Fitted with an electro-mechanical system and fully integrated sensor suite, the autonomous IPV has a leader/follower capability that allows it to follow a lead vehicle, unmanned. GPS position data is transmitted from the leader vehicle to the follower vehicle. The follower vehicle uses the data to follow the exact path and speed of the Leader vehicle at each point along a route. Initially deployed for use in the US Military, the drone technology has been tailored by Royal Truck and Equipment and Micro Systems for the highways industry.
Engineers from Royal Truck and Equipment and Micro Systems will visit the UK to work with Colas engineers to install the new technology on a brand new IPV.
During the trial period, the UK and US teams will be in constant contact to develop and monitor the system.
A testing and training regime is in place and the new vehicle will be trialled on a live worksite under closely controlled conditions. In addition, all data collected during this period will be analysed and incorporated into the roll out of future vehicles not just in the UK, but also across Europe.
Dennis Gregg, Colas associate director, said: “As a company that offers traffic management to clients across the UK, we are always looking for new and innovative ways to improve the safety of both our operatives and the road using public. By collaborating with these two US companies, we strongly believe that we are on the brink of something which could have a huge positive impact on the industry at large.”