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AI-Controlled Autonomous Battery Powered Trucks Ordered for Felixstowe

Autonomous battery trucks
After testing at the port, Felixstowe will now receive 100 battery-powered, AI-controlled, autonomous trucks (Hutchison Ports)

Published Jun 5, 2023 6:32 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s largest and busiest container port, is set to become the first port in Europe to introduce battery-powered autonomous trucks controlled by the latest AI technologies. Hutchison Ports which operates the Port of Felixstowe ordered 100 of the Q-Truck as the next step in a five-year collaboration to develop and introduce autonomous vehicles to daily commercial operations.

Hutchison reports that the order follows a tender process along with a thorough testing and evaluation process conducted at Felixstowe. They first introduced the trucks developed at Shanghai Westwell Technology Co. in 2020 at Terminal D in Laem Chabang Port, Thailand. According to the companies they have deployed 15 of the trucks as part of the efforts to make the Thailand port the first smart port in the world employing mixed mode operation between manned and unmanned internal traffic.

Westwell reports the Q-Truck completed its fourth model upgrade in 2022. Currently, it has nearly a 100-mile operating range and the capacity to transport up to 75 tons of cargo. The first batch of the trucks is scheduled to reach Felixstowe in September 2023 and they highlight that when fully deployed it will be the largest electric autonomous commercial vehicle fleet in operation.

The latest generation of the trucks uses a combination of AI and positioning data to provide fully autonomous driving. This model of truck eliminates the driver’s cab. According to Westwell, the latest model adopts a new generation of sensor fusion architecture. The Q-Truck is equipped with multiple sensors, including an industrial-grade long-range high-precision binocular AI camera, and LiDAR. By applying state-of-the-art AI algorithms with a full-stack autonomous system, the vehicle demonstrates the most advanced perception and capabilities. The Extreme Precision Position (EPP) System installed in the truck can help to achieve centimeter-level accurate vehicle positioning and high-precision control with a steering deviation within 0.5 degrees.

Westwell promotes with agile sensing, real-time analysis, self decision-making, and precise execution, the WellFMS (Fleet Management System), developed by Westwell is able to manage the fleet efficiently, dispatching tasks, reduce idle time, monitor real-time localization, handle status data of vehicles and goods. The Q-Truck is also equipped with a cloud-connected smart green energy service developed by Westwell that can assist Q-Truck in achieving autonomous battery swapping and realizing efficient recharging of the vehicle within five minutes.

Hutchison Ports highlights that the Q-Truck is part of its plan to increase efficiency and make a significant contribution to decarbonizing operations at the port. In addition to the autonomous trucks, the port is investing in battery-powered conventional tractor units, replacing and re-engineering its yard cranes, and purchasing electricity only from certified renewable sources.