StreetDrone and Perform Green have been confirmed as two of eight consortium members to develop 5G connected and autonomous logistics capability for Nissan’s Sunderland plant.

The 800-acre Nissan site in Sunderland is Europe’s most efficient car plant and the proof-of-concept project will assess how 5G connected and autonomous logistics operations can drive more efficiency into industrial supply chain operations.

Significantly, the project is removing the need for a safety driver, and introducing tele-operation as back-up on site.

The consortium, led by the The North East Automotive Alliance is made up of businesses and institutions including Sunderland City Council, Newcastle University, Coventry University, Hitachi Transport System-owned Vantec which performs ‘last-mile’ logistics for Nissan, Ferguson Transport,  Connected Places Catapult, StreetDrone and Perform Green.

“What is special is that we are removing the need for a safety driver, and introducing tele-operation as back-up on site.”

Perform Green, August 2020

The project is also being supported by Zenzic, the Department for Transport and the North East Local Enterprise Partnership.

Zenzic (formerly Meridian) was created by government and industry to focus on key areas of UK capability in the global connected and self-driving sector.

Zenzic’s role enables, co-ordinates and facilitates, putting the UK at the centre of a transport revolution. It brings together the three main forces of industry, government and academia to create a new, thriving and prosperous economy with a positive impact on society.

Cheltenham and Sheffield-based Perform Green helps private and public sector organisations to innovate, improve productivity and their quality of service.

StreetDrone is an Oxford-based full-stack software and hardware autonomous technology company with particular expertise in driverless solutions for low-speed and specialist operating design domains from metropolitan ‘zone 1’ environments to campuses and manufacturing sites.

StreetDrone believes that logistics can be one of the first-commercially viable autonomous services, with its repetitive routes, and need for complex articulated-truck manoeuvres in confined areas.

A pioneer in the advancement of open-source solutions to unlock the potential of autonomy, StreetDrone ran the first public road trial of open-source vehicles with Smart Mobility Living London in 2019.

The Department for Culture, Media and Sport grant will be used to develop 5G connected and self-driving 40-tonne trucks capable of moving parts and assemblies between Nissan’s Sunderland manufacturing plant and local businesses contributing to the car maker’s just-in-time supply chain.

The key ambition is to demonstrate, in an industrial operational environment how these technologies can drive operational efficiencies and improve productivity.

The vision is to develop a globally-unique centre of excellence and operational test facility for CAL (Connected and Autonomous Logistics) at the Nissan Sunderland site.

The project will lead to an operational blueprint for the roll-out of 5G-enabled CAL across the UK and globally.

The project, termed ‘5G CAL’ – standing for 5G Connected and Autonomous Logistics – will build on StreetDrone’s pioneering autonomy work that includes the stewardship of various open-source autonomous software solutions with a focus on low-speed applications, including urban and suburban metropolitan areas, campuses and manufacturing plants.

Logistics can be one of the first-commercially viable autonomous services, with its repetitive routes, and need for complex articulated-truck manoeuvres in confined areas.

The 5G project will require StreetDrone to develop 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.

Perform Green’s role in this project will be to provide technical advisory and assurance, coordination of the 5G implementation and for support for integration of the 5G network as well as cyber security and dissemination support.

Matt Warman, Minister for Digital Infrastructure, says: “The new funding we are announcing today will help us pioneer new ways to seize the opportunities of 5G and bring tangible benefits for consumers and businesses across the country.”

Mike Potts, StreetDrone’s CEO 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.

“The reality is that autonomous cars are still many years from widespread adoption,” he says.

“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.”

Mark Preston, StreetDrone’s Co-Founder adds: “We are excited to work with the CAVL consortium in the North of England to demonstrate 5G as a key enabler in the roll-out of connected and autonomous vehicles.

“We look forward to augmenting StreetDrone’s capability in Level 4 autonomy and taking advantage of 5G benefits such as low latency teleoperation, vehicle-infrastructure communications and edge & cloud computing to make CAV logistics a commercially viable proposition and demonstrate this with an exciting end-user in Nissan Motor Manufacturing UK.”

Toby Rhodes, Perform Green Director says: “We are excited to be a member of this consortium to build a 5G-enabled CAL to test fully autonomous HGV’s with remote operators in an industrial setting and a private 5G Core for the North East.

“This represents a step-change in the application of 5G in in industrial and commercial environments where 5G is essential for remote operation.

“Moving from being part of the team developing the proposal to being a consortium member securing the funding to progress to build enhances Perform Green’s reputation for innovation and smart society solutions.”

Paul Butler, Chief Executive of the North East Automotive Alliance, says: “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.”