Sectors - Civil

15 Year Vision to Revolutionise Construction

A digital revolution in the construction sector has the ability to dramatically increase productivity and save billions of pounds. Along with this, it could also reduce disruption for the public, as well as slashing the amount of accidents which occur on building sites.

Highways England is spearheading the launch of a 15-year plan to accelerate the use of technology in infrastructure. Connected and autonomous plant (CAP) is something which is already being used to transform activities within the construction sector in the UK, including the use of robotic trucks on Britain’s biggest road project, the recently opened A14 improvement.

Now, Highways England, in partnership with TRL and the Infrastructure Industry (i3P), has set out a Roadmap where the use of CAP techniques will become standard industry practice by 2035. It has also been estimated that the productivity improvements that can be achieved via CAP may exceed £400 billion by 2040.

Jim O’Sullivan, Highways England Chief Executive, said: “Connected and autonomous plant will make work safer and quicker. The Roadmap lays out the benefits and addresses the barriers to making this a reality. We are confident the Roadmap will help our supply chain to rapidly make this the norm on our worksites.”

The CAP roadmap has been developed through collaboration with more than 100 industry stakeholders and predicts that the adoption of this technology in the construction industry could:

  • reduce fatalities in the construction sector by 37%
  • improve productivity by up to £400Bn by 2040
  • see annual savings of £53bn across new construction work
  • assist with 47% of construction activities currently performed
  • see road construction deliver benefits of >£3bn between now and 2035

Alex Wright, Chief Technologist for TRL, explained: “The CAP roadmap has been developed collaboratively with more than 75 organisations. Through a wide variety of questionnaires and workshops, we identified the actions required to overcome the various technical, business, and legislative challenges to delivering the vision.

Overall, the Roadmap brings together nine pathways which have been identified to deliver success by 2035. This includes elements from legislation, regulation, and policy as well as factors facilitating finance and investment and an understanding of the skills gaps.”

Highways England is already trialling CAP plant in key areas. Automated dump trucks have been trialled on the recently opened A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement in the East of England. These trucks were programmed to remotely follow a pre-determined route, and also have the capability to detect and avoid obstacles and other vehicles along the route as they drove.

By introducing CPA usage, the potential for round-the-clock working can be introduced, which can reduce the amount of time roadworks are on the ground. As well as this, being automated, the risk of accidents on-site can also be reduced. Automation also allows jobs to be moved to other skilled areas.

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