The city of Caofeidian in China is set to have the world’s first fully autonomous port by the end of the year. Trucks and cranes will carry, load and unload containers, relying upon human intervention to control the centralized system.
The port in Caofeidian handled 260 million tonnes of freight in 2017. And, with the recent launch of a new rail link between the port and the Mongolian capital Ulaanbaatar, it seeks to become an important hub in northeastern Asia.
Automating the harbour
As part of the plans to automate the port in Caofeidan, 20 self-driving trucks will be deployed by the US-Chinese start-up company TuSimple. However, rather than using the laser-based radar (LIDAR) technology used in many autonomous driving systems, these trucks will use cameras to provide a 360-degree view of the vehicle’s surroundings.
Both cameras and sensors will gather data about the vehicle’s surroundings with accuracy in locating and identifying objects within 300 meters. According to TuSimple, its trucks will reach Level 4 autonomy.
Given the confined area of a port, combined with its restricted access, limited speed and relatively predictable activities, ports are an ideal testing space for autonomous vehicles. While several ports, such as Yangshan near Shanghai and Rotterdam, have trialled semi-autonomous vehicles to transport containers, the vehicles in Caofeidan will be self-driving by the end of the year.
A separate company will handle the automation of the cranes used to load and unload the shipping containers.
A number of IEC technical committees (TCs) and their SCs produce International Standards which contribute towards ensuring the safety, reliability and interoperability of vehicle components. Some of these include lamps and related equipment (IEC TC 34), sensors (IEC TC 47), electronic displays (IEC TC 110) and audio, video and multimedia systems, including digital cameras (IEC TC 100).
Sensors are an essential part of what is collectively known as the internet of things (IoT) and, combined with the development in artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning, make autonomous systems possible. ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC) 1: Information technology, includes several subcommittees which deal with the various technologies involved with autonomous vehicles such as cloud computing, cyber security and IoT. In 2017, the IEC, together with ISO, established a new subcommittee, ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC 42, with the purpose of providing standardization in the area of AI.
(picture source: Fanghong)