Innovate UK awards funding to Fusion Processing and Bradshaw Electric Vehicles for autonomous tow tractor development

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A newly formed partnership between Fusion Processing and Bradshaw Electric Vehicles has been granted funding by Innovate UK, the UK government’s innovation agency, for the development of fully autonomous, unmanned tow tractors.

The vehicles are designed for use in factories, warehouses and airport logistics operations to improve safety and efficiency by ensuring the smooth and timely delivery of products, goods and baggage.

During the development process, Fusion Processing’s CAVstar control and sensing system will be used to turn the electric T700 and T800 tow tractors from Bradshaw into fully autonomous vehicles. The system consists of lidar, cameras and ultrasonics working in tandem to provide the vehicle with a picture of its surrounding environment. The vehicle will then use this information to maneuver safely and efficiently through the environment.

Thanks to this system, the tow tractors will be able to operate in factories where GPS signal is unavailable, negating the need for additional and expensive infrastructure to be installed.

Fusion Processing’s CAVstar system is highly flexible and can be retrofitted to any vehicle to control throttle, braking and steering systems for Levels 3, 4 and 5 autonomous operation. Furthermore, the CAVstar operating system will be tuned for more efficient throttle and braking control than is possible by a human driver.

A development program will start in October 2022 and will finish with automated tow tractors being utilized in operational factories and warehouses by summer 2023.

“We are delighted to be awarded this Innovate UK funding, as autonomous commercial vehicles will transform the logistics of warehouses, factories and airports where tow tractors are used extensively,” said Jim Hutchinson, the CEO of Fusion Processing. “Fusion is already widely acknowledged as the leading provider of autonomous systems for buses, and this new project is the first in a series we will be announcing as we apply our technology to the freight and logistics markets.”

“Our third-generation T700 and T800 tow tractor is the ideal model to autonomize as production lines often run a 24-hour operation and the 48V system and rollout battery lends itself to extended run-time applications, negating the need for shift changes and downtime,” added Drew Bradshaw, joint managing director of Bradshaw Electric Vehicles. “It will typically be hauling loads of up to 8 tonnes around complex environments where precision logistics are key to the smooth operations. We’re also particularly keen to realize the energy savings that Fusion’s autonomous CAVstar system can deliver.”

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After spending six years working as a mechanic for various motorsport and high-end performance car companies, Callum joined UKi Media & Events in February 2020 as an assistant editor. In this role he uses his vast practical knowledge and passion for automotive to produce informative news pieces for multiple vehicle-related sectors. Currently, he is responsible for content across UKi Media & Events' portfolio of websites while also writing for the company's print titles.

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