Automated vehicle technology is commonplace within some industries in the off-highway sector, which encompasses a broad range of industries, including mining, quarrying, agriculture, construction and ports and airports. Despite the widespread use of off-highway automated vehicles, there is currently no universal operational safety standard for all off-highway landscapes. Due to the wide range of use cases within the off-highway sector, there is substantial variation in the operational constraints and hazards encountered by automated vehicles. In addition, compared with on-highway, which has a highway code that can be programmed into an automated vehicle, there are no pre-defined rules for off-highway vehicles, such as speed limits or junction etiquette. The off-highway sector also has to deal with the challenge that many of the operations in this sector require automated vehicles to interact with things in the environment, either because they block the vehicle’s path (e.g. undergrowth or tree branches) or because engaging with them is part of the vehicle’s primary function (e.g. harvesting or excavating). These factors present a significant challenge for developing generic safety standards for the use of automated off-highway vehicles.
The challenge for TRL is to develop a Code of Practice for the Operation of Automated Off-highway Vehicles which is applicable to the broad range of environments in which off-highway vehicles are used and the different demands and risks of using automation in those settings. We must gain an understanding of the current guidelines and operating procedures in use across the range of industries that employ off-highway automated vehicles. We must also develop an understanding of the organisations involved in the operation of automated off-highway vehicles and the ways in which the working practices and organisational cultures in the various off-highway industries can be best engaged to ensure that safe practices are built in to the adoption of automation.
The ultimate objective of this research is to produce a draft Code of Practice for the Operation of Automated Off-highway Vehicles in the off-highway sector and pilot this code, in collaboration with Oxbotica, in a real-world setting. The aim is that this code will support safe practice, build public confidence and support the cooperation between organisations across all industries employing off-highway automated vehicles.
In order to achieve this, TRL will firstly review current relevant standards and operating procedures for automated and manual workplace vehicles and review existing literature to understand the different use cases, environments and risks. Stakeholder engagement will also be utilised to identify risks, current good practice and potential safety requirements. TRL will then produce a draft Code of Practice for the operation of automated off-highway vehicles, pilot this in real-world trials.