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SafeAI, Siemens, Obayashi collaborate to bring retrofitted autonomous, zero-emission heavy vehicles to off-road industries

SafeAI, a global leader in autonomous heavy equipment, announced a collaboration with Siemens today to create an autonomous, zero emission heavy vehicle fleet for Obayashi Corporation. SafeAI and Siemens will work with Obayashi Corporation, a Japan-based global leader in construction, to create smarter, safer, more sustainable and productive construction sites.

SafeAI - Niall David Photography-9502

SafeAI and Obayashi originally announced their partnership in October 2020, beginning with a pilot site in Cupertino. Together, the two companies set out to address common pain points across construction—including unsafe working conditions, labor shortages and rampant inefficiencies—with autonomous solutions. Since then, they have successfully tested and deployed an articulated autonomous dump truck to complete more than 580 load-haul-dump cycles.

SafeAI and Siemens signed an agreement in May 2021 to work jointly on retrofitting off-road heavy vehicles for autonomy, zero-emission and connected applications, due to the increasing convergence of these three mega-trends in vehicles. SafeAI brings its powerful, scalable AI-powered retrofit autonomy to the collaboration, while Siemens provides its industry-leading hardware and software capabilities in zero-emission powertrains, and the necessary infrastructure to operate these vehicles.

Earlier this year, a fleet of 300 construction trucks—ranging from 45 - 65 tons and operated by Obayashi Corporation—was identified to be retrofitted for autonomy and zero-emission. In May 2022, the companies began retrofitting the first 45 ton vehicle, which is expected to be ready by the end of 2022. The collaboration will continue scaling across the entire fleet over a three year period.

Unlike passenger cars, full electrification of heavy vehicles is still at a nascent stage. However, with improving maturity of technology, total cost of ownership, government incentives and regulations, there will be more than four million zero emission heavy vehicles deployed by 2030.

Beyond the zero-emission benefit, electric vehicles also offer improved performance, negligible maintenance costs and longer uptime and life, improving productivity and reliability while lowering costs. For this project, it is estimated that the total cost of ownership for the retrofitted electric vehicle will be 15-30% less than that of the original internal combustion engine vehicle.

Heavy vehicle retrofit for autonomy and zero emission is an innovative yet cost-effective solution that will fast-track adoption of sustainable technologies for heavy vehicles. Not to forget, retrofit is a form of reuse or recycle and hence in line with circular economy principles to better meet net zero goals. Combined with creative financing models and rigorous focus on safety, there could be as many retrofitted zero emission heavy vehicles as newly built zero emission heavy vehicles by 2030.

There’s a tremendous opportunity ahead for companies across industries like construction, mining, harbor and agriculture to reduce their carbon footprint, all while improving operations and lowering costs. In partnership with pioneers like SafeAI and Obayashi Corporation, we can imagine a more sustainable future for these industries.

—Zubin Sarkar, Head of Strategy, Business Development and Marketing at Siemens Commercial Vehicles

The project also incorporates unique features from Siemens such as an autonomous-pantograph to enable automatic charging and an autonomy analytics suite to ensure a wide array of reliable and safe applications.

Simulytic, a new Siemens AG venture, has been established to help accelerate the deployment of autonomous vehicles by offering a trustworthy platform accessible to regulators, government, insurance, tech developers and operators alike.

By creating a digital replica of the autonomous vehicle in its deployment environment, we can use our simulation technology to provide independent safety and performance analytics for both SafeAI and Obayashi.

—Andy Gill, Chief Operating Officer at Simulytics

The retrofit project will be engineered by a system integrator known for its expertise in electrification and mechatronics of trucks, AVIA Engineering.

This partnership follows on the heels of a year of significant growth for SafeAI, including expansion into Australia, Canada, Japan and India, the release of its industry-first operating system, the SafeAI Autonomous Framework (SAF) and a game changing partnership announcement with MACA, Ltd and Position Partners to deploy 100 autonomous vehicles.


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