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Robot disruptors head to TOC Europe

TOC Europe in Amsterdam next week will see the first attempt by an autonomous vehicle start up to disrupt the container handling equipment market.
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It had to happen sooner or later - just as software companies are trying to disrupt shipping and logistics with new products that threaten to take shipping online and make freight forwarders redundant, an autonomous vehicle start up will come to TOC Europe in Amsterdam next week and attempt to disrupt the equipment market with a concept that could make AGVs obsolete.

Gaussin has announced that it will be displaying two new automated vehicles at TOC, an “AGV Performance”, a more ‘conventional’ AGV than Gaussin’s AIV concept, and an all new “Autonomous Prime Mover” (APM). The APM is based on Gaussin’s ATM (Automated Trailer Mover) and appears to share the same four-wheel platform.
The potential disruptor comes in the form of Gaussin’s new automation partner, DigiRobotics from Dubai. DigiRobotics has developed a so-called “natural navigation" system using Lidar, radar, cameras and GPS - basically the same technology being used for autonomous cars. “Natural navigation”, says Gaussin means there is no more need for traditional equipment and infrastructures” to automate horizontal transport.

TOC Europe is the biggest trade show of the year for the terminal operating industry and visitors will be able to compare the Gaussin and DigiRobotics' offering with AutoTUG, a new automated terminal tractor concept from Terberg which also claims to be ready for deployment. In another first, Terberg will be displaying an AutoTug without a cabin in Amsterdam next week.

Adding intrigue, DigiRobotics is not working with Terberg, but initially developed its “TRUGO” automation conversion kit on a Terberg tractor in Jebel Ali. DigiRobotics has posted a video on youtube showing the terminal tractor being driven around the port, controlled by a person sitting in the access stairs that appears at times to be correcting the steering from his phone.
This should be an interesting debate among equipment OEMs next week - is it really possible to now retrofit automation to the thousands of terminal tractors around the world, converting them to automated machines, as Gaussin states? Can terminals run automated tractors in a “conventional” yard, without having to fence off robots from manned vehicles?

None of the big equipment OEMs have announced they are going down this path, which raises the question of whether DigiRobotics has underestimated the complications of terminal logistics? As Antti Kaunonen President, Kalmar noted in his recent blog on terminal automation “Autonomous cars and driverless straddle carriers certainly excite the imagination, but building an efficient automated terminal will require more than getting 50 or 100 autonomous vehicles trying to navigate independently in the highly congested, narrow lanes of a container yard. Instead, we need to think of creating an infrastructure in which the entire automated system operates as a seamlessly integrated whole.”

TOC Europe runs 27 - 29 June at the RAI exhibition centre in Amsterdam
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