Construction Today - Volume 16, Issue 2 - 45
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Asset Drone p.46
Public infrastructure projects could be the biggest benefactor. The
country's aging infrastructure is well documented, and the devastating impacts associated with the recent storms in Texas and Florida
and the wildfires in California highlight the need for significant
infrastructure upgrades throughout the country. One recent study
estimated that the total cost to update the nation's beleaguered
infrastructure is more than $4.5 trillion. And while a solution to all
that ails the country's infrastructure system is far beyond the scope
of this article, it goes without saying that building a new road, airport, bridge or water system becomes more palatable to politicians
and the tax paying public when it can be done at a lower cost and in
The potential benefits of construction vehicle and equipment
automation do not end with lower costs. For one, the use of autonomous construction vehicles and equipment may result in reduced
greenhouse emissions. The construction industry has not escaped the
worldwide focus on seeking to decrease greenhouse emissions. Many
countries, including the United States, regulate construction equipment emissions. According to one recent study from The Hong Kong
Polytechnic University, diesel emissions from construction equipment are the primary source of greenhouse emissions during the
construction phase of a public infrastructure project. That same study
found that equipment operations - i.e., the manner in which the
equipment is controlled by its human operator - is a significant factor
that affects construction equipment emissions. It stands to reason
that machines programmed to eliminate human error, reduce idling
time, identify and diagnose equipment problems, and perform tasks
in the most efficient manner possible are likely to achieve significant
Combining autonomous equipment capabilities with other
emerging technologies - such as electric power in place of diesel fuel
- could reap additional environmental and cost benefits. Last March,
Volvo CE unveiled its HX2 prototype - an autonomous, battery
electric, concept load carrier that was developed as part of Volvo CE's
"electric site project." According to Volvo CE, the HX2 uses an electric
motor, batteries, and power electronics, and has a "vision system"
that allows it to detect obstacles and humans in its vicinity. Volvo CE
projects that the HX2 would achieve a 95 percent reduction in carbon
emissions and a 25 percent reduction in total cost of ownership.
While there is no evidence that the HX2 has moved beyond the prototype stage since its unveiling nine months ago, it offers a promising
glimpse into what the future may hold.
Of course, like any revolutionizing technology, not everyone
is likely to be sold on the benefits of autonomous construction
equipment. Many will be rightly concerned that the technology
will result in job displacement. And while that may be true to some
Asset Drone provides
innovative, safe and
productive drone applications to its customers.
Conti Solar p.66
Conti's market presence
has fueled its success
building distributed generation solar facilities.
extent, many others believe that in the long
run there will be demand for skilled operators both to monitor equipment performance and to take over the controls as may
There undoubtedly remains much more to
be done from both a technical and regulatory
standpoint before your neighborhood construction site is filled with robotic machinery
digging up earth and moving dirt. But that
day is coming, and it will likely be here sooner than you think.
Zachary S. Davis is an attorney at Stoel Rives LLP where he is a member of the
Construction and Design Section of the Real Estate, Development, and Construction Group. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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