August 7, 2020 @ 14:49 by Richard Dawson
A consortium of North East organisations have secured funding for a 5G-enabled connected and automated logistics (CAL) pilot and proof of concept.
The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) and partners Sunderland City Council, Newcastle University, Vantec, Coventry University, Connected Places Catapult, StreetDrone and Perform Green will work on the £4.9 million project.
£2.4 million of the funding comes from 5G Create, a £30 million open competition to find innovative new uses for 5G.
The project will aim to deliver step change in CAL, proving last-mile delivery for an autonomous HGV up to 40 tonnes on a private road.
5G is essential here because it will enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations.
Paul Butler, CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “The North East is a beacon of automotive productivity, boasting high levels of automation and one of the most dynamic workforces.
“Automated last-mile logistics is the next major innovation challenge in our continual drive for operational efficiency. This project will take 5G enabled solutions out of the testbed into an operational manufacturing environment.
“Through our industrial base and the unique assets of our road transport sector, the North East offers an ideal location to support the design, development and manufacture of CAL solutions.
“Our vision is that this will be the catalyst for establishing a globally unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL here in Sunderland.”
Mike Potts, CEO of Street Drone, believes logistics can be one of the first commercially viable autonomous services and this project provides the ideal testbed for its roll out.
He said: “The reality is that autonomous cars are likely still many years from production.
“However, using the technologies that we’ve already developed in an industrial logistics setting, such as this, makes sense in a much shorter timeframe.
“I can see how the development that we’ll be doing as part of the project will quickly scale to many other industrial settings, where reducing cost and increasing safety are critical factors in profitable operations.”
Patrick Melia, chief executive of Sunderland City Council, added: “Now is the time for a regionally focussed investment to automate logistics for manufacturing, unlocking efficiency, improving competitiveness, attracting investment and boosting exports.
“This project represents a major opportunity to support and accelerate economic growth, creating an exemplar that will encourage further private and public sector investment.”