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Port of Felixstowe introduces autonomous terminal tractors into container terminal operations

Hutchison Ports-operated Port of Felixstowe is one of the first ports in Europe to introduce autonomous terminal tractor units (ATs) into mixed-traffic container terminal operations.

The first two battery-powered units to enter service at the UK's largest container port have been supplied by manufacturer Westwell.

Clemence Cheng, chief executive officer at the Port of Felixstowe, commented, "These new autonomous trucks represent a significant technological step forward for the Port of Felixstowe. The tools underpinning port operations have evolved continuously and we already have a range of very advanced systems and equipment in place but this is the first time we will have wholly driverless vehicles."

According to Port of Felixstowe, the autonomous trucks use a digital map which is loaded to a fleet management system that controls the navigation around the port. The AT then combines that map with its on-board GPS navigation to track its real-time position.

Project director, and Hutchison Ports UK chief information officer, Karen Poulter explained, "The Port of Felixstowe has a long record of innovation and we are very excited by this latest development at the port. The ATs use LiDAR - a light sensing technology that creates a 3D map of an AT's surroundings using a laser and receiver, which, when combined with its on-board 360-degree cameras, provide real-time, all-round 'vision'. This enables it to 'see' everything instantaneously in its vicinity to allow safe and accurate navigation."

The ATs have been through a thorough commissioning and testing programme and are to be used initially to transport containers between the port's Trinity and North Rail terminals.

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