December 2016
Autonomous vehicles: Exploring new opportunities for mill yards

Technologies that will allow vehicles to run without drivers are within reach and some examples of autonomous vehicles are already being developed. Level 4 and 5 autonomous vehicles (based on a scale ranging from 1 to 5, where 5 means complete automation) are expected to be on the roads by 2030. In recent years, many industries have invested in technologies to automate their machines and processes, and FPInnovations foresees a strong potential for the use of autonomous vehicles in the forest sector.


One goal for autonomous vehicles is for them to perform monotonous tasks so that people can focus on more important tasks at hand. With that in mind, FPInnovations’ Transport and Energy group has initiated a project to evaluate various applications, including their use in mill yards. A possible configuration could take the form of a cab-free, remotely-operated motorized platform equipped with security devices such as proximity detection and alert technology (PDAT) systems. An example of such a platform, adapted for use in harbour operations, is already being offered by Terex Port Solutions.


The use of autonomous vehicles in mill yards could offer numerous advantages, including optimization of transportation logistics within the mill yard, elimination of duplicate equipment, reduced labour costs, and increased worker safety. The project, now at the business plan development stage, could also include the testing of anti-collision and anti-roll systems. Some member companies have already expressed interest in participating in the development of the vehicle, and the creation of a consortium is a possibility. A prototype for the mill yard is expected to be available within 2 to 3 years, and wider applications for the forest sector could follow.


The deployment of such technologies in the forest sector will require consideration of the  distinctive features related to wood transportation, as well as the various regulatory aspects. However, automated vehicles present a viable future for the forest industry to address safety, productivity, and staffing issues.


For more information on this project, please contact Dimitri Markou, Researcher in the Transport and Energy group.


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