Project to develop 5G-connected automated vehicles given funding

A project to develop autonomous heavy goods vehicles has received funding to test how 5G connectivity can improve productivity through enhanced transport and logistics.

Leading the Way in 5G and Connected & Automated Logistics

The North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA), Newcastle University, Sunderland City Council, Coventry University, Connected Places Catapult, StreetDrone and Perform Green have secured funding for a 5G Enabled Connected and Automated Logistics (CAL) pilot.

This £4.9m project will receive £2.4m from the Government’s £30m 5G Create competition and deliver a huge stride forward in CAL, proving last mile delivery for an autonomous HGV up to 40 tonnes on a private road.

The project aims to drive operational efficiencies and improved productivity while continuing to develop a globally unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL.

The 5G-connected trucks will be piloted in distributing parts and assemblies across the Nissan Sunderland plant, linking to many local SMEs in the supply chain. 5G is essential as it will uniquely enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations.

Phil Blythe, Professor of Intelligent Transport Systems, Newcastle University said: “This is an important project that plays to the strengths of both the University and the region and signals our intent to be a significant player in future transport systems.

“The regional capabilities and the 5G testbed that will be established by the project will provide a solid foundation for the North East to continue to be an innovative proving ground for smart transport technologies to meet our objectives of tackling decarbonisation, levelling up and growing the economy through the productivity gains that autonomous last-mile logistics can deliver.  This is a strategic project of National Importance, aligns with Department for Transport priorities and my team are delighted to be part of it.”

Catalyst for globally-unique centre

The North East automotive sector is a beacon of automotive productivity boasting high levels of automation and one of the most dynamic workforces. The continual drive for operational efficiency is key to maintaining the region’s competitiveness. It is widely recognised that Connected and Automated Logistics (CAL) has the potential to provide significant cost benefits to UK manufacturing.

Paul Butler, CEO of the NEAA, said: “Automated last mile logistics is one of the major innovation challenges, especially in the automotive sector with its synchronous and highly complexed supply chains. This project will take 5G enabled solutions out of the testbed into an operational manufacturing environment.

“Through our industrial base and the unique assets of our road transport sector the North East offers an ideal location to support the design, development, and manufacture of CAL solutions. Our vision is that this will be the catalyst for establishing a globally unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL here in Sunderland.

“This will provide a stimulus for solution providers and industry to design and develop CAL solutions which meet specific industry challenges related to the factory of the future and intelligent supply chain – driving operational efficiencies and improving productivity.”

Patrick Melia, Chief Executive, Sunderland City Council. said: “Now is the time for a regionally focussed investment to automate logistics for manufacturing, unlocking efficiency, improving competitiveness, attracting investment and boosting exports. This project represents a major opportunity to support and accelerate economic growth, creating an exemplar that will encourage further private and public sector investment.”


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