Page 20 - Commercial Vehicle Engineer - September 2021
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AUTONOMOUS VEHICLES
 Fusion is using the autonomous Ducato as a rolling test bed to expedite the development of the CAVstar system in a specific configuration for the CAVForth
and MultiCAV projects the company is involved in, Hutchinson adds. “Not only do the redundant braking and steering systems need to be developed and fine-tuned, the vehicle gives our engineers the opportunity to trial the latest radar, lidar and optical cameras in various combinations in
order to find the optimum for different Operational Design Domains. Customers and partners who’ve seen the van operating autonomously have been hugely excited by the possibilities it brings, not only as a new form of transport, but a showcase for the versatility of the CAVstar system.”
The autonomous van is also used to test and develop ADAS technology, such as Fusion’s CycleEye CMS mirror replacement system. “HD cameras and radar replace cumbersome mirrors either side of the vehicle,” explains Hutchinson. “Not only do they feed live footage to screens mounted inside the cab, the in-built AI detects vulnerable road users moving alongside the vehicle and alerts the driver.”
Now, Fusion is working on converting an electric 17-seat minibus – a Mellor Orion
E – for AV level 4 operation, demonstrating how autonomous technology can be applied to a wide range of commercial vehicles.
USE IN MANUAL VEHICLES
Hutchinson adds that Fusion’s autonomous technology opens opportunities to use elements of it in manual driven vehicles to enhance
safety. “Today, increasingly, we see delivery vehicles like the Ducato moving around housing estates delivering online purchases. This is a relatively recent development; in the past, vehicles moving in housing estates were largely domestic cars owned by people that live in the estate. Now we have vans delivering
from 8am to 8pm. Our technology can enhance the safety of this situation, we increase safety for people moving around the vehicle, including the driver. Fusion is keen to engage with the logistics sector, as
Fusion's level 4 autonomous Fiat Ducato
“Customers and partners who’ve seen the van operating autonomously have been hugely excited by the possibilities it brings”
    we see great benefits that can be realised with our technology in terms of safety and efficiency.”
Of course, the pandemic has impacted on the speed of development of autonomous technology over the last 18 months. “Teams have been working from home, isolating, etc and there has also been a lag in delivery of components from China,” says Hutchinson. “However, with that said COVID has caused generations of people who hadn’t previously shopped online to now do so, and enquiries about autonomous delivery vans are now becoming pretty regular.”
Indeed, the pandemic showed how autonomous vehicles may have uses in the future where drivers aren’t needed and so can keep going in any situation, such as
a pandemic.
“The pandemic has shown that it is essential to keep public transport services running so that key workers can still get to
work and people are able to conduct their essential business,” he says. “Autonomous vehicles have a role to play as part of the mix, and can provide safe, accessible
and flexible transportation for goods and people.”
With this in mind, Hutchinson is
bullish about the future for autonomous commercial vehicles. “Commercial vehicles lend themselves very well to autonomous operation,” he says. “A professional fleet will be well maintained, and operated in accordance with the operational design domain, which is essential for effective operation of autonomous vehicles. In addition to freight, our systems work
well for passenger services using cars, minibuses or even buses. We are seeing demand for systems that can work in
an area such as business park or campuses, where flexible, on-demand transportation is needed to and from
a local transport hub.”
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