Autonomous depots possible in future, says ZF

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Where GPS is unavailable, RFID navigation with floor markings is used

ZF has raised the potential for reduced vehicle damage and more productivity from drivers with its automated depot concept, which is suitable for use in the passenger-carrying sector.

It is based around a central operating system that controls and instructs vehicles. On board them is technology that includes radar and cameras to ‘localise’ themselves within the depot, and obstacle detection is among the elements that can be included.

Navigation is undertaken via either GPS or RFID including ground markings (pictured). The latter is likely to be used within buildings, where GPS connectivity is limited or not available.

ZF says that automation of the depot environment allows highly-precise manoeuvring of vehicles thanks to accuracy of 3cm. The system is compatible with both diesel and electric buses.

Those that are automated can follow a mixture of pre-set and individually calculated routes, depending on the customer’s requirements.

Vehicle control is “particularly easy” when they are fitted with ZF components, but the automation concept works equally well with those built by vertically-integrated OEMs. The driveline interface functions with any vehicle that can be told what to do electronically.

A high amount of computing technology is required for the system to function, and sufficient data must be available. Secure LTE communication is utilised within the depot, preventing it from being hacked.