Autonomous tractors arrive at the port of Felixstowe (United Kingdom)

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The port of Felixstowe, not far from Ipswich in the east of England, is one of the largest terminals in Europe. It is gradually welcoming around a hundred fleet tractors, which no trucker will ever drive…
Deep waters. The Port of Felixstowe is Britain’s largest and busiest container port, and one of the largest in Europe. It welcomes around 2,000 ships each year, including the largest container ships afloat today. The port offers some of the deepest offshore water of any European port.

Real-world testing. Felixstowe Marine Terminal is a member of the Hutchison Ports network. It recently signed an agreement for the acquisition of 100 Q-Truck autonomous tractors, with Westwell, Chinese manufacturer of these vehicles, based in Shanghai. The order follows a call for tenders and an extensive testing process.

Hutchison Ports first introduced Westwell Q-Trucks in 2020, at Terminal D of the Thai port of Laem Chabang. Fifteen of these tractors operate in mixed mode, without separation from other traffic in the area. They have processed more than 334,000 movements since their arrival.

Deployment in Europe. “Following the positive introduction of autonomous trucks at our terminal in Thailand and following extensive and successful testing at Felixstowe, we are rolling out the system in the UK. The new trucks will increase the efficiency and operational consistency of our container handling and make a significant contribution to the port’s decarbonisation operations,” explains Clemence Cheng, Managing Director of the Port of Felixstowe and Executive Director of Hutchison Ports.

These autonomous tractors do not need a driver. Their embryonic cabin does not house any driving position, because this is provided by their on-board computer, in conjunction with a centralized control station.

Analysis. The case is not really new, however this time it is not about mining dumpers, but about (relatively) standard road tractors. Of course, they are not intended to drive on open roads, but all the same, we can see it as a further step towards widespread autonomous driving.

This article is originally published on actu-transport-logistique.fr

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