Felixstowe, the first port in Europe with Autonomous Terminal Tractor Units (ATs) in container terminal operations

The UK’s Port of Felixstowe said it has become the first port in Europe to introduce autonomous terminal tractor units (ATs) into mixed traffic container terminal operations.

Driverless technology -The first two battery-powered units have been supplied by manufacturer Westwell, Source: Port of Felixstowe

The first two battery-powered units to enter service at the UK’s largest container port have been supplied by manufacturer Westwell.

“These new autonomous trucks represent a significant technological step forward for the Port of Felixstowe. The tools underpinning port operations have evolved continuously and we already have a range of very advanced systems and equipment in place but this is the first time we will have wholly driverless vehicles,” said Clemence Cheng, chief executive officer at the Port of Felixstowe.

Safety first

Mr Cheng said that safety is othe port’s number one priority. This applies equally to technological developments and especially when introducing new equipment into live terminal operations.

”The ATs have a range of built-in safety features which will allow them to navigate effectively and safely within our container terminals,” he added.

The autonomous trucks use a digital map which is loaded to a fleet management system that controls the navigation around the port.

This digital map is created using LiDAR – a light sensing technology that creates a 3D map of an AT’s surroundings using a laser and receiver, which, when combined with its on-board 360-degree cameras, provide real-time, all-round ‘vision’.

This enables the AT to ‘see’ everything instantaneously in its vicinity to allow safe and accurate navigation.

With the support of Extreme Precise Position (EPP) system, it can achieve positioning accuracy of 2 cm and a steering angle accuracy of 0.5 degrees.

The ATs have been through a thorough commissioning and testing programme. They are to be used initially to transport containers between the port’s Trinity and North Rail terminals.

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