Honda Tests Off-Road Autonomous Work Vehicle

autonomous work vehicle

Image Credit: Honda

Honda is making headlines once again as they seeking potential business and technology partners for their prototype off-road vehicle. Honda’s Autonomous Work Vehicle combines the automaker’s all-terrain vehicle (ATV) and advanced autonomous technology. Honda R&D Americas have designed the Autonomous Work Vehicles to improve efficiency and safety.

They aim to target public, commercial and consumer enterprises with the potential to support a host of industries. Some of these include search and rescue, firefighting, construction, agriculture, landscaping and snow removal. Honda will feature their Autonomous Work Vehicle at CES 2019 in Las Vegas Convention Center from January 8-11, 2019.

Making The Autonomous Work Vehicle

The rugged Autonomous Work Vehicle (AWV) platform is based on Honda’s proven all-terrain-vehicle (ATV) chassis. With more than 30 years accessing hard-to-reach locations with the rugged four-wheel drive system, it’s no surprise that they chose it.

While fairly simplistic in design, its autonomous capabilities let users set it to “follow me,” “pattern” or “A to B” modes. This makes it an incredibly useful vehicle for a wide range of applications. Honda’s Autonomous Work Vehicle is essentially a 4WD quad bike where its rail system enables you to mount different types off accessories and ‘plug-ins’. The top half can be removed and replaced with various add-ons. From sensors and self-driving equipment to robotic arms and other features required to perform a specific task.

The prototype Autonomous Work Vehicle uses GPS and sensor-based autonomy to guide it through almost any environment. Due to its compact size and impressive off-road abilities, the AWV is highly maneuverable and suits various locations. The AWV makes light work of sand, gravel, dense forests to busy urban areas.

Since introducing the concept vehicle under the name 3E-D18 at CES 2018, Honda has made significant strides. They have worked with several partners to beta-test and evaluate potential applications in different environments. These partnerships include a large-scale solar operations company, wildland firefighting and an agricultural research facility. Honda will share the results of the real-world tests at CES 2019.

Vegetation Management At Solar Operations Company

At a 178-acre (72 ha) solar plant in North Carolina, Honda has been testing their Autonomous Work Vehicle with a mower towed behind it. Vegetation management is a massive undertaking and one of their biggest challenges for generating reliable and affordable energy.

The solar plant currently uses sheep and manual labour to keep the vegetation under control but perhaps a change is on the horizon. Honda’s Autonomous Work Vehicle can efficiently and safely remove weeds around the solar panels. The advanced autonomous capabilities offered the solar company a more consistent and much faster vegetation management solution.

Fighting Fire With Autonomous Work Vehicle In Tow

In Colorado, the fire department has used the AWV to carry heavy gear as firefighters work through difficult terrain to control forest fires. Considering that firefighters carry around 60 pounds of equipment while navigating steep terrain, they are often fatigued by the time they reach the front lines.

Honda’s Autonomous Work Vehicle will greatly ease the burden of physical strain, minimise injuries and enable firefighters to focus on the task at hand. They installed a gear rack to carry supplies, equipment and extra water. Firefighters can enable the “Follow Me” mode and the vehicle will autonomously follow the firefighters wherever they go.

Harvesting and Spraying Crops

A big challenge facing commercial agricultural operations is the strenuous and time-sensitive nature of crop harvesting. In California, Honda has tasked the AWV to autonomously spray crops for weed and pest control. They equipped the Autonomous Work Vehicle with a gear rack and crates to enable workers to easily load and transport crops. Using the “A to B” mode, the AWV can efficiently and speedily transport crops autonomously.

The Autonomous Work Vehicle can save time and minimize the potential for injury to agricultural workers. They no longer have to be exposed to the chemicals or rush back and forth carrying harvested crops from the field to the packing station.

As Pete Wendt, senior planner in Advanced Product Planning stated, “Honda showed its vision of the Autonomous Work Vehicle as a concept at CES 2018, and we’ve been testing in real-world scenarios to demonstrate the value and capabilities of this unique machine. Honda is looking for additional partners to evolve the technology and develop attachments or accessories that will expand the potential uses for the Autonomous Work Vehicle.”

What are your thoughts on using autonomous vehicles in agriculture specifically? While the benefits are clear, how do you think it will impact employment? Please share your comments below or find us on social media.

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