Construction experts weigh in on the subject of AI

A group of construction experts from Volvo Construction Equipment (Volvo CE) recently shared their thoughts on the growing role artificial intelligence (AI) is playing in the construction industry.

Research engineer Torbjörn Martinsson argues that, while construction has historically not been in the vanguard in terms of applying new technologies, things are about to radically change.

“I would argue construction is about to take the lead in the autonomous race,” Martinsson said. “Here at Volvo CE, we already have automation up and running with workable concept machines, something that the automotive industry hasn’t caught up to yet.

“We have the perfect playground for these technologies: fenced areas, restrictive rules and simple repetitive applications. And with construction being an industry with inherent risks, if we can remove humans from the ground into more remote operation, then we will see huge benefits for site safety.”

Martinsson went on to explain that Volvo CE’s own experience with AI began nearly two decades ago with features such as the Fully Automatic Power Shift and Reverse By Braking system.

“From there we started to explore safety and overall site efficiency,” said Johanna Huggare, manager of Volvo CE’s Intelligent Machine Platforms. “We asked ourselves: ‘How could AI be used to help with navigation, deciding the most appropriate paths and routes and detecting obstacles?’

“When we presented the HX1 autonomous concept hauler—a real physical machine that was tested and proven to work on real construction sites—it was a major breakthrough.”

Christian Grante, director of Emerging Technologies, gave an idea of what customers can expect from the industry going forward.

“Eventually we want to be in the position where one operator can handle more than one machine,” he said. “From a purely technical perspective, our research has already taken us close to achieving this. Another possibility for the future is for us to really customize the behaviour of our machines, so that they fit a very specific application.”

Jeffrey Boyle

Jeffrey Boyle is from Madison, Wisconsin, where he obtained his bachelor's degree in business communications. When he's not reading or writing about construction equipment and machinery, he can probably be found walking--or being walked by--his three Boston Terriers.