Kalmar: Autonomous Vehicles vs. Automated Terminals


The development of autonomous vehicles could have some correlation to the growth of automation in the “constrained environment of the container terminal”, according to a new blog post from Kalmar.

While autonomous cars are still in their infancy, the terminal solutions provider underlines how the level of automation is “increasing feature by feature”.

In order to fully automate vehicles for practical use, a vast number of factors need to be considered, including differences in traffic culture, national legislation, weather conditions and road infrastructure.

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There could be solutions to some of these challenges, with vehicle-to-vehicle communication a potential means of boosting safety and efficiency, but the required technology is yet to be developed.

On the other hand, as Kalmar highlights, “automated container terminals have been in production use already for over two decades”.

Unlike with vehicles, container terminal automation is a “closed area” with safe control systems built to industrial safety standards, although current trends are suggesting a move to operations in which automated and manual machines can work alongside humans.

Timo Lehto, Jari Hamalainen and Heimo Poutanen, Kalmar, discuss terminal automation in a recent Port Technology technical paper

In terms of how these two areas of automation are similar, Kalmar has focused on the incorporation of navigational technologies in automated container terminals, “from satellite navigation and radar to ground-based transponders and magnets”.

“As a high-volume mass market, the car industry operates with a very different set of core assumptions and technology development patterns”, compared to container terminals.

The most important long-term enabler for autonomous road vehicles, according to the automation specialists, will be artificial intelligence (AI), a technology that is already becoming the foundation for new port and terminal technologies.

“Container terminals were among the first leaders in automated work machines,” and while other industries can learn from this success, there is much insight to learn, and much innovation to harness, from developments in the autonomous vehicle sector.

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