Capital Equipment News April 2019


About Professor Paul Newman Professor Paul Newman is co- founder of Oxbotica, the autonomous vehicles software company, as well as the Director of the Oxford Robotics Institute. He is also the BP Professor of Information Engineering at the University of Oxford, UK, and inventor of techniques that allow machines to know where they are, what surrounds them and what they should do next. In this interview, he speaks on behalf of Volvo Construction Equipment, telling us what automation might mean in terms of construction equipment.

with no dependence on infrastructure, no dependency on any external systems, no beacons, no cables, no markers, no white lines, no dependency on roads, not even dependency on GPS. When this is achieved all machines can work better for us. Q: What technology is driving increased mobile machine autonomy? PN: It’s the software. Sensors are important and there’s lots of interesting sensor technology coming through. But the golden stuff is the algorithms. The way in which machines can understand space, the structure of space, the work space. How things are moving, what’s in them, the ability to take various sensor streams and for the machine to say: ‘Aha! I know where I am, what’s around me, and what I should do next’. Those are the three pillars of autonomy and get answered by software and algorithms. Q: Will these systems allow machines to be intelligent and self-learning? PN: Of course. It would be hard to do it any other way. Machines can learn, they have the optimisation, the estimation and the algorithmic ability to operate at high speeds and in the real world. The ability to process streams of data from multiple sensors and think about redundancy and safety all at the same time. That’s the greatest thrill of working in this area – getting robots and machines to work out in the wild, in the mud, in the rain and in the glaring sun. Q: When will we have autonomous construction machines? PN: That’s not such a simple question to answer. We are a long way from being able to produce a machine that can work in all

Professor Paul Newman, co- founder of autonomous vehicle software company Oxbotica.

Q: What is driving the urge to automate functions in construction equipment? PN: It’s fundamentally about supercharging humans. It is about humans doing more because machines can do more – because of the way they operate. Q: What needs to happen to make this possible? PN: The way machines and vehicles operate is already changing. But for full autonomy we need to trust machines to be able to operate safely and effectively by themselves, Increasing automation is met with excitement and fear in equal measure. But the benefits for mankind of autonomy are enormous, says Professor Paul Newman, co-founder of autonomous vehicle software company Oxbotica, and a professor based at Oxford University in the UK. Will automation ever take off in construction?


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