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Sun November 28 2021

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Honda and Black & Veatch test autonomous vehicle [-video]

16 Nov A prototype Honda autonomous vehicle has proved its worth in a month-long trial at a Black & Veatch solar construction site in New Mexico, USA.

The fully-electric vehicle was used at the New Mexico site for a range of function, including towing activities and transporting construction materials, water and other supplies to preset destinations.

Honda had previously performed testing with an earlier generation of the Honda Autonomous Work Vehicle (AWV) but  the second-generation prototype was the first to deploy multiple units working collaboratively.

The AWV was first introduced as a concept at CES 2018 in Las Vegas.  

The Honda AWV combines the company’s off-road side-by-side platform with emerging advanced autonomous technology. Honda and Black & Veatch said that the result is a new category of work vehicle that can be deployed in a variety of dynamic work environments. The Honda AWV employs a suite of sensors to operate autonomously, using GPS for location, radar and lidar for obstacle detection and stereoscopic (3D) cameras for remote monitoring. The vehicle also can be operated by remote control.

Black & Veatch collaborated with Honda to provide a real-world testing ground to validate the Honda AWV technology at an active construction site. The company’s personnel were trained by Honda’s engineers on the operation and safety protocols of the vehicles to use the technology in the field. Black & Veatch provided detailed feedback for product and business requirements to help enhance the Honda AWV’s capabilities and services.

“Black & Veatch’s pursuit of construction innovation and safety on job sites has led us to this relationship with Honda,” said Mario Azar, president of Black & Veatch’s global power business. “With our leading market position in solar power, the testing of this new autonomous work vehicle aligns with our focus on advancing the industry through new and innovative ways to work at project sites.”

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“With our test partner, Black & Veatch, Honda was able to demonstrate the performance of our rugged all-electric Autonomous Work Vehicle prototype in a large-scale construction environment,” said Kenton Williams, US project lead for the Honda AWV. “We believe the Honda AWV has the potential to bring greater efficiencies, higher levels of safety and better environmental performance to the construction industry, and to other industries seeking an autonomous off-road solution.”

In order to validate the capabilities of the Honda AWV, the company selected a solar energy construction site where support structures for solar panels are laid out in a grid pattern at regular intervals. The site was seen as an ideal environment to test the ability of the Honda AWV to stop at precise points along a pre-set route.

Honda produced a high-definition map of the 1,000-acre site that allowed Black & Veatch operators to set start and stop points for multiple Honda AWVs using a cloud-based app interface that runs on tablets and PCs. The vehicles successfully delivered materials and supplies along a calculated route and proved capable of stopping within centimetres of the pre-set points.

The field test also demonstrated the viability of the Honda AWV battery system to support energy-intensive sensors and provide vehicle propulsion, while operating up to eight hours in a high-temperature environment. The vehicle carried payloads of about 400kg, and in a separate use-case towed a trailer carrying over 725kg.

Honda believes the Honda AWV will be capable of providing a wide range of services to a variety of industries that need a rugged off-road autonomous solution, especially where workforce constraints and safety concerns make other solutions impractical. The ability to operate autonomously – or via remote control – and carry large payloads, along with the potential to add attachments and tools, makes the Honda AWV a suitable platform for many work environments, it said.

Honda has not announced commercialisation plans for the Honda AWV, but continues to advance the platform through field testing.

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