HVS awarded grant to develop the world’s first self-driving hydrogen HGV 


Hydrogen Vehicle Systems (HVS) has announced that the consortium it leads, Hub2Hub, has been awarded £6.6 million ($8.1 million) in government funding to develop an autonomous Heavy Goods Vehicle (HGV).

This announcement was made on 1 February.

This will be the first autonomous and zero-emission HGV in the world. 

The Hub2Hub consortium will begin vehicle trials in 2024 with UK retailer ASDA, and engineering consultant, Fusion Processing, as strategic partners. 

The partners will work together to develop two prototype vehicles that will enable Level 4 autonomous-driving.

Lever 4 autonomous driving is defined by the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) as requiring no human interaction.

The first hydrogen-electric HGV prototype will be fitted with a driver’s cab and tested on the road in autonomous operation, using the Fusion Processing’s Automated Drive System, CAVStar, with a human safety driver at the wheel.

Fusion Processing’s CAVstar system incorporates vision systems, AI, and route planning, to deliver a fully autonomous vehicle.

The second prototype will have the driver’s cab removed and replaced by an aerodynamic fairing.  

During the project, this vehicle will be evaluated on test tracks using the CAVStar system.

This will allow a remote human driver, located in a control hub, to operate the vehicle.

Together these two prototypes point to an optimised future logistics system where vehicles could be operated in autonomous mode on a hub-to-hub route, with a remote driver then taking control to drive the vehicle from the hub to its end destination.

It is expected that the cost effectiveness of an autonomous lorry will speed up the adoption of zero-emission vehicles by the freight sector, reducing the industry’s contribution to climate change. 

This is also expected to provide new employment opportunities. 

The £12 million ($14.8 million) venture has been selected by the Centre for Connected Autonomous Vehicles (CCAV) as a recipient for its joint industry and government-funded project.

HVS, which laid out its plans to develop a hydrogen-electric powertrain technology demonstrator in November 2022, received £3.4 million ($4.2 million) as one of seven grants announced from the CCAV and Connected and Automated Mobility (CAM) programme.

READ: Port of Felixstowe becomes first in Europe to launch autonomous trucks into ops

Fusion Processing CEO, Jim Hutchinson, said: “Our market analysis indicates that the commercial vehicle segments such as haulage are where we will see autonomous vehicle technology first used in large scale deployments. 

“Hub2Hub is a perfect showcase of what the advanced version of our CAVstar Automated Drive System can achieve. Combining SAE Level 4 autonomous driving with tele-operation to deliver safer and more efficient vehicle operations.”

The application of this advanced system is said to offer a revolutionary solution to today’s shortcomings in the haulage industry, solving issues of driver shortages and improvement in driver quality of life.

Fleet operators can also benefit by optimising vehicle utilisation during less busy hours, thereby making logistics more efficient and more environmentally friendly by avoiding congestion. 

ASDA Senior Fleet Manager, Sean Clifton, said: “Reducing our fleet emissions is a major part of our plan of moving towards net zero, so we are keen to look at innovative new technology, such as autonomous HGV tractor units, which can make a real difference to our carbon footprint.” 

APM Terminals (APMT) has also made developments to a similar effect as they expedited the launch of the new Truck Appointment System which is expected to accelerate gate access, decrease truck turn times, and enhance global logistics planning.

HVS’s announcement also comes more than a year after Ford UK tested autonomous vehicles at London Gateway to observe how autonomous delivery can impact operations and workflow at ports.

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