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June 4, 2020

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Highway paved by driverless tech

With China’s booming driverless technology, construction projects on highways are embracing new helpers.

A fleet of unmanned road pavers and rollers are working busily on the construction site of the Panzhihua-Dali Highway, which will connect the city of Panzhihua in Sichuan Province with Dali in Yunnan Province.

These gigantic rumbling vehicles can conduct asphalt paving collaboratively without drivers.

They can collect information about the surrounding environment through GPS positioning systems, microwave communications, millimeter wave radar and other sensing equipment installed on the vehicle, which can help plan the optimal operation path.

They are also connected to a remote monitoring data center that can send instructions and coordinate the work of multiple vehicles.

The unmanned technology was jointly developed by China’s leading construction machinery manufacturer Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group, Sichuan Railway Investment Group and Tsinghua University.

The highway is a key project of China’s intelligent transportation construction, with bridges and tunnels accounting for more than 81 percent of the construction area. It has high specifications for the smoothness of pavements, for example.

The intelligent “brain” of the unmanned driving system was developed by a team of researchers from Beijing’s Tsinghua University, focusing on intelligent construction.

According to the team, the technology helps realize the unmanned operation of the construction vehicles under complex working conditions.

The precision of the operation path varies only within two to three centimeters, which can greatly improve construction quality and save on operation costs.

The unmanned vehicles can conduct real-time monitoring of the construction sites and are designed with multiple features, including automatic early warning, emergency stop and autonomous obstacle avoidance.

Liu Tianyun, one of the researchers, said that the successful application of the unmanned highway construction machinery fleet has promoted the industrialization of unmanned technology and accelerated the integrated development of smart transportation construction.

The Ministry of Transport issued a guideline in May, saying that China will accelerate the application of advanced technologies in road construction and road network management.

The guideline called for better use of fifth generation communications, high precision positioning, edge computing, as well as the BeiDou Navigation Satellite System in highway construction and road network management.

“With the help of the 5G network’s ultrafast connectivity and low latency, we are expecting more unmanned intelligent construction sites in China,” Liu said.


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