In the giant project E39 Kristiansand west – Mandal east, the client Nye Veier AS wishes to promote innovation and technological development. The result is that design and build contractor AF Gruppen is developing several innovations in cooperation with relevant partners and with the help of SINTEF. These innovations include the development of an autonomous (self-driving) road roller.

The goal is to build roads faster and more efficiently. The introduction of an autonomous road roller shall also provide a HSE benefit in that employees may avoid stressful work tasks that involve a lot of noise and vibration. In the longer term the plan is for an operator to operate several autonomous vehicles from a control room.


In operation next year

A prototype has been tested on the E39 project in the last week. The tests have been very promising.

“As far as we know, this is the first time an autonomous road roller has been tested in a construction project. In accordance with the approval from the Norwegian Public Roads Administration for conducting testing on the E39 project, for safety reasons an operator must be present in the road roller who can stop the road roller in the event of unforeseen events. The goal is for full autonomous operation before the end of 2020,” says technical manager for machinery automation with AF Gruppen, Kristen Petillon.

 AF Gruppen is developing the road roller in partnership with suppliers Hamm and Semcon. Semcon has developed the control system, including the autonomous features. Hamm has developed the machine for control by a third party.

 “It has been a very good process and close and stimulating cooperation between all parties in the development of this autonomous road roller,” says Rune Gulli, director of Wirtgen Group, that owns Hamm.

 He says that the development of an autonomous road roller has been on the company’s agenda for some time.

 “Taking part in this project is an excellent opportunity to test the technology with a professional player and in real and difficult conditions. A road roller that compacts rock of these thicknesses is exposed to huge strains, so this is a real test of the equipment,” Gulli says.


A good road roller provides road quality
Semcon is responsible that the road roller is self-driving and for all control and safety around the vehicle. The autonomous solution is based on the control system from Yeti Snow Technology AS, where Semcon is one of the owners.

 Technical project manager of Semcon, Thomas Eriksen, emphasises that good compacting of the top layers is essential in order for the finished road to be of high quality.


“This is work that demands a high degree of accuracy and that is carried out within a confined area. These are perfect conditions for an autonomous solution, where an operator may for example control several machines, and work may also take place at night.


Must withstand the climate
SINTEF is research partner in the project, and is contributing with expertise on sensor technology, compacting and statutes and regulations for autonomous construction vehicles.

They will also contribute to the systems being built having great emphasis on secure communications and preventing hacking attempts. The system relating to compacting will also be developed further to become more efficient.

“In order to use completely self-driving construction machinery in the future, legislation must be adapted, while technology and the sensors in particular must be able to withstand the Nordic climate,” says Terje Moen, who is heading the project at SINTEF.


Will benefit the industry
Through the E39 Kristiansand-Mandal project, Nye Veier AS is investing in the project. Head of technology and development with Nye Veier, Sebastian Kussel, says that it is important that design and build contractors are given the opportunity to take part in research, development and innovation (R&DI) projects in the major design and build contracts.

“It is important for Nye Veier that the projects provide efficiency gains and documented greater benefits than costs. In addition the results will be made public so that the entire industry can make use of them.”

He emphasises that the autonomous road roller project is a very good fit in this strategy.

“Major ‘theoretical’ benefits have been calculated, including in terms of the environment and safety. It will be interesting to see how this is actually implemented, and no least how it will be scaled up in the time ahead.”


Innovative solutions in the E39 Kristiansand-Mandal project

Transparency solution (ISY Prosjekt) 

An online application to make project information and BIM models in the project accessible: Events in HSE, External Environment, Quality, etc. (integration with Synergy), and documentation from Sharepoint: quality documentation, MOM documentation, work basis, etc. From the autumn it will also be possible to see the plan of progress visually through the BIM models. Also automatic model publication, support for handheld devices/mobile and offline functionality will be introduced.

 VR technology 

The Dimension 10 software is used to conduct virtual meetings between subcontractor Kruse Smith, consultant Norconsult and AF Gruppen. Models from each of the disciplines are loaded. They are reviewed one to one to identify errors or deficiencies. Using VR one can see errors that would go undetected on 3D models on an ordinary display: VR provides a better understanding of dimensions/distances.

Autonomous Road Roller
AF Gruppen is developing an autonomous (self-driving) road roller in partnership with suppliers Hamm and Semcon. SINTEF is also assisting in a research project related to safety and optimisation of use. The road roller is being demonstrated in the field this autumn, and the goal is for it to be operational by the end of 2020.

Prediction and real time measurement of winter road conditions 
Camera surveillance of the road surface shall provide safer driving conditions in the winter. Images are combined with meteorological data, information from operations contractors and traffic monitoring. This provides a better prediction of driving conditions, in addition to allowing for less use of road salt. A spectroscopic camera and autonomous road roller were presented by AF in partnership with SINTEF as an added value to Nye Veier in the bid.

Parametric analysis and modelling (PAM)
PAM is used in planning and provides an efficient analysis of far more solutions in one optimisation process. Factors such as greenhouse gas emissions, concrete volume, ground conditions, mass balance and construction can be analysed simultaneously.