Construction Today - Volume 16, Issue 2 - 44
By Zachary S. Davis
very so often, a new technology
changes the course of an industry.
For the construction industry, the
development of autonomous driving technology and its implementation in
construction vehicles and equipment might
be such a moment.
While the public spotlight focuses on the
race among on-road vehicle manufacturers
to bring autonomous driving to a street
near you, manufacturers of construction
vehicles and equipment are also sprinting to introduce automation to your local
construction site, albeit with far less fanfare.
With fewer practical and regulatory hurdles
to clear - construction sites are relatively
controlled compared with open roadways -
the finish line for construction vehicle and
CONSTRUCTION-TODAY.COM VOLUME 16, ISSUE 2
equipment automation may be closer in sight. And with industry
titans such as Caterpillar and Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo
CE) joined by tech-driven startups like Built Robotics - a San Francisco company backed by some of Silicon Valley's biggest names
and boasting a former CEO of Autodesk on its Board - autonomous
construction equipment is increasingly becoming a question of
"when" and not "if."
For an industry in which efficiency and productivity are paramount and that faces chronic labor shortages in many geographic regions, the impact of construction vehicle and equipment automation
could be game changing. Tasks like earthmoving and excavating that
normally require a team of human laborers could be performed by
autonomous diggers and load carriers with minimal human supervision, reducing labor costs and eliminating risks of human error or
injury. And because machines do not fatigue, they can theoretically
work 24 hours a day and seven days a week. This increased productivity, combined with increased safety, has the potential to significantly
decrease costs on large construction projects.