Honda has developed a prototype for an off-road, autonomous work vehicle (AWV) designed to help a number of industries, including search and rescue, firefighting, construction, agriculture, landscaping, and snow removal, among others. The company is looking for potential business and technology partnerships for its AWV at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show (CES).
The prototype has a GPS unit, rail accessory mount system, and onboard power plugin-ins. It also boasts sensor-based autonomy capabilities with three different modes: “Follow Me,” “Pattern,” and “A to B.”
Honda’s AWV concept was unveiled at last year’s CES under the moniker 3E-D18. Since then, Honda has collaborated with partners to “beta-test and evaluate potential uses” in three different environments, according to Honda.
“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,” says Pete Wendt, senior planner in Advanced Product Planning, Honda R&D Americas. “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.”
The first test environment was a large-scale solar operations company in North Carolina, spanning 178 rural acres. The AWV was used to aid in vegetation management, which is currently tasked to sheep and manual labor. The vehicle was fitted with a tow-behind mower to remove weeds around the solar panels, providing “a more consistent and faster solution to manage its vegetation,” according to Honda.
Next, Honda traveled to a wildland firefighting division in Colorado. According to Honda, firefighters can carry loads up to 60 lb, which can lead to fatigue, injury, and reduced manpower. To alleviate these issues, the AWV trailed firefighters in Follow Me mode, carrying supplies and equipment.
Last but not least was an agricultural and environmental sciences college in California, where the vehicles assisted with crop harvesting and spray applications. Outfitted with a gear rack and crates, the A to B mode proved useful for the autonomous transportation of crops. “This real-world testing demonstrated the Autonomous Work Vehicle’s ability to save time and minimize the potential for injury to workers in the agriculture industry,” according to Honda.
Honda R&D engineers will continue their AWV development efforts while they seek partnerships to expand capabilities and use cases.