Colas has agreed a partnership with two American companies, Royal Truck & Equipment and Micro Systems, to build and trial the UK’s first autonomous impact protection vehicle for use in the highways sector.
The vehicle could drastically improve safety as road maintenance companies would no longer need to use drivers in impact protection vehicles (IPV).
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.”
The autonomous IPV will be fitted with an electro-mechanical system and fully integrated sensor suite, which allows it to follow an unmanned lead vehicle.
The unmanned vehicle will use drone technology initially trialed by the US military with GPS position data transmitted from the vehicle in front to follow the same route and mimic the speed.
Royal Truck and Equipment and Micro Systems have tailored the US military technology for the highways industry.
Robert Roy, Royal Truck & Equipment president, said: “There is no doubt that this technology has the potential to change the way the industry operates forever.”
For the highways industry, the technology would mean that unmanned vehicles could be deployed in places where having a driver could be dangerous. Collisions with IPVs have lessened in recent years, but in the five years to 2011 there were 149 collisions with IPVs according to the Transport Research Laboratory.
Royal Truck & Equipment and Micro Systems engineers will visit the UK to work with Colas engineers to install the new technology on a brand new IPV.
Colas research and development manager Ryan Wood said: “We are extremely excited at the prospects for this new technology and are looking forward to the installation and successful trials over the coming months.”