Nissan's Sunderland plant will trial the use of self-driving 40 tonne trucks to deliver assembly parts as part of a proof-of-concept logistics project.
The 5G CAL or 5G Connected and Autonomous Logistics project is being led by a consortium made up of Sunderland City Council, StreetDrone, Newcastle University, Vantec, Coventry University, Connected Places Catapult, The North East Automotive Alliance and Perform Green.
Funding for the trial has attracted a £2.42 million grant from the Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS), taking total project funding to £4.85m.
The 5G project will require StreetDrone to develop both software and hardware solutions spanning redundant braking systems, a driving robot capable of complex articulated truck manoeuvres in confined areas and the integration of driverless software with telematic control for remote fleet management.
Mike Potts, StreetDrone’s chief executive, believes that logistics can be one of the first commercially viable autonomous services and the 5G CAL project provides an ideal testbed for the roll-out of a UK-developed autonomous product.
He said: “The reality is that autonomous cars are still many years from widespread adoption, however the technologies that we’ve already developed can be used in an industrial logistics setting and will quickly scale to many other similar contexts where reducing cost and increasing safety are critical factors in profitable operations.”
Paul Butler, chief executive of the North East Automotive Alliance, said: "Automated last mile logistics is one of the major innovation challenges, this is especially true in the automotive sector with its synchronous and highly complexed supply chains.
"This project will prove last mile delivery for an autonomous HGV, the 5G will uniquely enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations.
"Through our industrial base and the unique assets of our road transport sector the North East offers a globally unique location to support the design, development and manufacture of connected and automated logistics solutions.
"This project represents a major opportunity to support and accelerate economic growth, creating an exemplar that will encourage further private and public sector investment."