Driving innovation: Westwell’s autonomous fleet evolution unveiled

Ji Zhang, Westwell at CTAC 2024

During PTI’s Container Terminal Automation Conference (CTAC), which wrapped up in Valencia on 17-18 April 2024, Margherita Bruno, Editor at PTI, sat down with Ji Zhang, Regional Director at Westwell. In this exclusive interview, we delve into the company’s groundbreaking journey in autonomous fleet operation within container terminals.

Can you elaborate on Westwell’s journey in pioneering autonomous fleet operation within container terminals? How has the company’s approach evolved over the years?

JZ: In recent years, we developed a comprehensive autonomous driving solution called Qomolo. It combines both hardware and software, exclusively using electric vehicles, autonomous driving technology, and intelligent centralised management systems. We see its potential application in supporting various sectors like airports, logistic centres, and factories. Additionally, we’ve designed a battery swap station, called PowerOnair, enabling vehicles to fully recharge in just five minutes. This addresses a major concern of our customers regarding charging times. We’re committed to staying ahead in the large logistics and transportation industry by focusing on intelligence and sustainability. Through our innovations, we aim to position Westwell as a leader in the logistics sector, assisting our customers in achieving their goals.

How does Westwell utilise autonomous driving technology to enhance the operational efficiency of container terminals?

JZ: We utilise various technologies such as autonomous driving perception, high-precision location systems, intelligent path planning, and V2X to gain a comprehensive view of operations, enabling us to make optimal decisions using our AI algorithms.

Container terminals are complex environments with many moving parts, and our solutions aim to minimise adaptation time for equipment like spreaders and cranes, reduce internal traffic congestion, and optimise the use of resources like rubber-treated gantry cranes and quay cranes. Automation also enhances safety by allowing terminal employees to work from remote offices, creating a more inclusive workplace that can accommodate people with disabilities.

In your latest contribution to our journal, you mentioned the challenges posed by mixed traffic scenarios, such as autonomous trucks operating alongside manual trucks. How does Westwell’s fleet management system address these challenges, particularly in terms of coordinating traffic flow and resolving conflicts?

JZ: Autonomous driving faces numerous challenges when operating in mixed-traffic environments due to the variety of vehicles, pedestrians, and potential unexpected incidents. To tackle these challenges, we’ve developed our Fleet Management Systems (FMS). What sets our FMS apart is its ability to gather real-time information from various sources, enabling us to make informed decisions regarding route planning and lane selection to ensure smooth operations. Additionally, we conduct extensive simulations during the implementation phase to refine our designs and find the most effective solutions for terminal operations.

READ: Westwell launches ground-breaking ‘Next-Gen Digital & Intelligent Port Operating Platform’ at TOC Europe

With advancements in robotics and AI, how does Westwell foresee the future of autonomous fleet operations within container terminals evolving? Are there any emerging technologies or strategies the company is exploring to further optimise terminal automation and enhance overall performance?

JZ: The logistics sector is undergoing a fascinating transformation. In the years ahead, all our customers will strive to make their operations smarter and more eco-friendly to meet decarbonisation goals. At Westwell, we’re committed to advancing our AI and autonomous driving technologies to help them enhance transport efficiency, reduce costs, and improve safety. As part of this shift towards green energy, we aim to contribute to sustainable solutions that benefit both our customers and the planet. We’re dedicated to fostering innovation and growth at Westwell. Currently, we serve over 200 customers in 18 countries, and we’re eager to create even more value for them and attract new customers in the future, with a steadfast focus on AI and green energy.

Ji Zhang joined Westwell in 2023 as Regional Director. He holds double degrees in Telecommunication Engineering and Artificial Intelligence. With over 15 years of experience in the sector, he has worked in various roles such as R&D, Sales, and Management in European and Asian multinational companies.

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