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A consortium which includes autonomous tech firm StreetDrone has won £2.4m of funding to develop self-driving 40-tonne trucks capable of moving parts and assemblies between Nissan’s Sunderland car manufacturing plant and local businesses.

The 800-acre Sunderland site will host the proof-of-concept project, which aims to evaluate how 5G connected and autonomous logistics operations can be used in industrial supply chain operations.

The 5G Connected and Autonomous Logistics project, dubbed 5GCAL, will develop software and hardware solutions spanning redundant braking systems, a driving robot capable of complex articulated truck manoeuvres in confined areas and the integration of driverless software with telematic control for remote fleet management.

Other members of the consortium include Sunderland City Council, Newcastle University, Vantec, Coventry University, Connected Places Catapult and The North East Automotive Alliance and Perform Green.

Paul Butler, chief executive of the North East Automotive Alliance, said: “This project will prove last mile delivery for an autonomous HGV, the 5G will uniquely enable the removal of the safety driver from the process, allowing remote teleoperations to overcome abnormal situations.

“Through our industrial base and the unique assets of our road transport sector the North East offers a globally unique location to support the design, development and manufacture of connected and automated Logistics solutions.

“This project represents a major opportunity to support and accelerate economic growth, creating an exemplar that will encourage further private and public sector investment.

Mike Potts, StreetDrone’s chief executive believes that logistics can be one of the first commercially viable autonomous services and the 5G CAL project provides an ideal testbed for the roll-out of a UK-developed autonomous product.

He said: “The reality is that autonomous cars are still many years from widespread adoption.

“However, the technologies that we’ve already developed can be used in an industrial logistics setting and will quickly scale to many other similar contexts where reducing cost and increasing safety are critical factors in profitable operations.”

Mark Preston, StreetDrone co-founder added: “We are excited to work with the CAVL consortium in the north of England to demonstrate 5G as a key enabler in the roll-out of connected and autonomous vehicles.

“We look forward to accelerating StreetDrone’s capability in Level 4 Autonomy, and to taking advantage of 5Gs to make CAV logistics a real commercially viable proposition, and demonstrate this with an exciting end-user in Nissan Manufacturing UK.”