Honda Puts Autonomous Vehicles to Work
With the second generation of its Autonomous Work Vehicle, Honda advances the concept of automated vehicles as jobsite helpers.
Honda and Black and Veatch, a global engineering and construction firm, said they recently conducted a month-long field test of a prototype Honda Autonomous Work Vehicle (AWV) at a Black and Veatch solar-energy construction site in New Mexico. The AWV prototype, based on a concept first revealed at the CES conference in 2018, “performed a range of functions,” Honda said, “including towing activities and transporting construction materials, water and other supplies to pre-set destinations within the work site.”
Although the automaker had previously field-tested the AWV, the New Mexico test of the second-generation prototype was the first time multiple AWVs were deployed to work collaboratively to support construction use cases, Honda said in a release. The solar-energy construction project, with solar-panel support structures arranged in precise patterns was selected as an ideal operational design domain (ODD) to test the AWVs’ ability to navigate a pre-set route.
Honda said it generated “a high-definition map of the 1,000-acre site that allowed Black & Veatch operators to precisely 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 centimeters of the pre-set points.”
“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, U.S. project lead for the Honda AWV, in a release. “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.”
Rugged platform, sophisticated sensors
Although 3E-D18, the AWV concept shown at CES 2018, was based on a Honda all-terrain vehicle (ATV) platform, the second-generation AWV prototype that worked in New Mexico is built on a larger side-by-side (SXS) off-road vehicle architecture. The current AWV is 114 in. (2900 mm) in overall length and 56 in. (1444 mm) high. The vehicle weighs 1590 lbs. (721 kg) and its maximum payload is 888 lbs. (399 kg), with a maximum towing capacity of 1653 lbs. (750 kg).
Although Honda did not provide details about the all-electric AWV’s batteries or propulsion system, the company said the vehicle’s range is as much as 27.9 miles (45 km) at maximum payload and it can operate for up to eight hours between battery charges, with a full recharge at 120V requiring six hours. The prototype AWV’s sensor suite consists of GPS navigation, radar and lidar for obstacle detection and stereoscopic cameras for remote monitoring, all making possible its fully autonomous operation.
The AWV also can be operated by remote control and the company envisions the AWV 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.”