Discover more about the topics and technologies to be discussed at this year's conference, via a series of exclusive interviews with a selection of our expert speakers

Speaker interview: Ben Holter and Simon Yardley, Husco

Ben Holter, hydraulic automation systems manager, and Simon Yardley, manager and director of strategic business development at Husco, discuss the strides and discoveries Husco has made in its project of automating a 21-ton excavator while retaining all of the factory-fitted control systems.

What technology will you be presenting at the Autonomous Industrial Vehicle Technology Conference?
Simon Yardley: We will be presenting a study on the application and results of a new approach to enabling autonomous functions on hydraulic pilot-controlled off-highway equipment. The study details the components and control used to automate a 21 metric ton excavator without modifying any of the factory-fitted control systems.

We will discuss how receiving pilot feedback and controlling the hydraulic system as a subsystem of the machine control allows improved performance and enables automated machine control of a standard pilot-operated machine.

What are the standout features and benefits of the automation system?
SY: Husco is striving to give OEMs and machine control providers access to an easy digital-to-hydraulic interface on both new and existing pilot-operated machines. An important feature is the versatility of the system: it is adaptable to a wide range of machines and types of hydraulic control systems, such as PCLS/LUDV, Open Center, negative control and positive control. This adaptability also makes the system relatively simple and quick to install on any regular, pilot-operated mobile machine, thanks to a fully integrated manifold and controller system with onboard diagnostics and feedback.

What are its potential uses and how close are we to fully autonomous vehicles?
Ben Holter: Autonomous control is about more than just removing the operator from the cab. At the moment, the value of the technology lies mostly in automating certain functions, augmenting the skills of the operator, and enabling remote control.

For example, certain repetitive sequences, such as returning to the trench, can be automated. More importantly, the technology can make the operator’s actions safer. When connected to 3D models, the technology can avoid accidental contact with hazards such as high-power cables or underground services because the machine will stop the function before a collision can happen. Potentially unsafe situations, such as a person walking into the path of the machine, can be automatically observed and acted upon.

Such augmentation potential can make a good operator great, or ‘upskill’ an inexperienced operator – a great help when contractors are short on skilled operators. The result is increased productivity and precision, which means less overrun on projects, less time backfilling on overdug portions, and lower emissions per project.

Another benefit of automation is that it allows more precise documentation when integrating with Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems. For instance, when you dig a foundation or lay a drainage trench, you will know exactly where it was excavated, in case future maintenance, repair or other digging is needed. Today, this is only possible though manual surveying and recording of the data, which is time-consuming and reliant on surveyor competence.

Finally, automation can play a role when it comes to hazardous operations. This can be done either through remote control or through full autonomous operation. For the near future, it is likely that fully driverless machines will be restricted to such situations due to the unpredictable environments of current standard worksites.

How is automation already changing off-highway vehicles of today?
BH: With today’s technology, we are already seeing increased productivity, improved safety and the enabling of machine learning via integral machine feedback with the system.

SY: In combination with the correct sensors and data, automated machines can stop a function before an accident happens. The technology can improve an operator’s precision and productivity by lowering the cognitive load and reducing fatigue. Finally, behind the scenes, the electronics can automatically document the worksite through machine-connected BIM systems.

Ben Holter and Simon Yardley will give a presentation entitled Enabling autonomous electrohydraulic control of pilot operated off-highway machines as part of the Autonomous Industrial Vehicle Technology Conference. Click here to book your delegate pass, which gives you access to all four conferences.

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