While Google has been testing their driverless car for months and months, with mixed results, the construction industry will actually be the first to enjoy the benefits of the developing technology.
Royal Truck & Equipment has developed a driverless Truck Mounted Attenuator (TMA) truck that they hope will save lives and reduce injury of construction workers on highway work zones. We see the non-driverless trucks everywhere, their purpose is to follow behind a road crew as a highly visible warning sign to other drivers on the road. They have an impact absorbing attachment on the back of the truck that reduces the damage from impact that these trucks experience daily.
The Autonomous TMA (ATMA) truck was created because Royal Truck & Equipment realized that it was a bit silly that in order to protect drivers and workers ahead of the truck, they had a human driving the truck whom would be susceptible to injury.
“I can tell you that these things (TMA trucks) are hit almost on a daily basis and they actually save lives,” said Robert Roy, President of Royal Truck & Equipment.
With the help of Micro Systems, developer of many different unmanned military vehicles which also save many America lives, the ATMA has become a reality and will hit streets soon. It works by using GPS data from the vehicle in front of the leader car, which tells the ATMA how fast and in which direction the leader car is moving.
Removing humans from being a shield for injury is obviously a step in the right direction, though it is still a bit scary to trust a vehicle driven by a computer system. It will be interesting to see if and how this technology could be adapted to other situations in the construction industry in years to come.
According to NBC News, the first ATMA truck is expected to be on Florida streets later this year.
Video below shows a demonstration of the ATMA in action:
Almost two years after they announced the release of their Bluetooth Battery that allowed owners to remotely monitor battery life and even disable the battery if it’s stolen, DeWalt is set to release a massive upgrade to their connected tool platform.
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Feeling the pressure of 9 straight quarters with a decline in total revenue, Caterpillar has acquired the equipment sharing startup, Yard Club, to get help dig themselves out of the dirt. Their most recent quarter was the company’s first positive revenue quarter since November of 2012.
I’m a firm believer that before robots start taking over construction jobs, we’ll first be working with robotics to make workers more efficient and our job sites more functional. Instead of using 3D printing robots to build an entire project, why not use them first to create intricate details and bring character back to buildings? Instead of pushing human labor out of the way, why not use robotics to enhance the abilities of our workers, to improve their health and productivity? With rise in development commercial exoskeletons, workers will soon be able to harness additional strength by just slipping on a suit.
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The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) is constantly researching ways to improve construction process and materials, like this material 10 times the strength of steel, or this solar cell that’s lighter than a soap bubble, or this “reversible concrete.” This time the Institute is showing off its autonomous robot that can spit out building structures on site within hours.
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Two of the most critical concepts of construction safety are the ability to see what you’re doing and to also be seen by others around you. Construction workers rely heavily on their employer providing lighting systems when working in low light conditions, but those systems are not always adequate.
There’s no doubt that the construction industry is behind when it comes to technology, but things are beginning to change. In the past few years, our industry has seen millions of dollars poured into new technology, including smartphone apps, advanced construction materials, and advanced safety equipment. One of the struggles –and perhaps the main struggle- with introducing new technology to the field staff is that many of them have been managing their jobs the same way for a long time. It can be difficult to convince them to change, especially if they have been successful with their current process.