Autonomous vehicles are on the rise in many different industries. In 2016 I witnessed the first major manufacturer unveil an autonomous vehicle at the Farm Progress Show in Boone, Iowa. The CASE IH autonomous concept tractor was brought to the market to increase efficiencies of the farmers. This cab-less wonder can take any machine out to the field and the operator only controls via an iPad. Taking the human completely out of the process. At ConExpo 2017 Volvo presented an autonomous dump truck, and an autonomous front end loader. Volvo has created options with and without operator station. The company is making the case that automation of the remedial and repetitive tasks will improve efficiencies of their customers and will improve safety concerns by taking humans out of harmful situations, but not removing the operator. Volvo states that these machines are not to replace the operator, but to collaborate and support the operator. Crane manufacturer Konecranes has developed a Li-ion battery automated guided vehicles (AGVs) for container handling. These automated container handlers can orchestrate safe and efficient work in the chaos that is in the shipping industry.
All new technologies have growing periods and struggles of how to improve and innovate. The automotive industry has done this through racing. One of the most iconic races and my favorite race of all, 24 hours of Le Mans, is where history is made and innovation is born. The 24 hours of Le Mans has brought innovations to your personal vehicle such as headlights, seat belts, windshields, windshield wipers, hybrid technology, aerodynamics, tire technology, and suspension. Similarly, at the ZF Race Camp, 24 race teams from Germany, Czech Republic, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Italy will be participating in the Formula Student design competition and out of the 32 vehicles that will be entered, six will be in the Driverless race category. The six driverless cars will be put through the paces, racing alongside electric race cars and traditional fueled race cars, all student designed and built. Martin Frick, head of ZF HR Marketing has said that the vehicles are equipped with sensors and artificial intelligence that helps the race car learn the track and improve with every turn. This type of competition can help drive innovation and maturity of automated vehicles. Even though the usefulness of information gathered from this exercise is more the artificial intelligence and predictive data, this competition also excites young people and helps them engage in something more technological and outside of the norm. Ultimately this will help lay the foundation for the future engineers, getting kids excited about science, engineering and technology.
Competition drives innovation and racing is the ultimate proving ground, so why can’t the innovation of these AGBots and ConBots be done through racing? Put the Big Iron manufacturers up against each other. Deere v. CAT v. Volvo v. Liebherr on the construction race teams, and Deere v. CLAAS v. CASE v. AGCO for the agricultural race teams. Something to bring up at the next shareholders meeting maybe.
- Patrick Hvolka
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