Could Self-Operating Equipment Be Industry's Answer to Worker Shortage?

“I actually think we’ll see autonomous equipment commonplace on job sites much sooner than on public roads, said Noah Ready-Campbell, founder of Built Robotics.

📅   Wed October 25, 2017 - National Edition
Emily Buenzle


“I actually think we'll see autonomous equipment commonplace on job sites much sooner than on public roads, said Noah Ready-Campbell, founder of Built Robotics, whose self-driving excavators have already worked on projects like a San Francisco-area community garden and site work at Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax, Calif.
“I actually think we'll see autonomous equipment commonplace on job sites much sooner than on public roads, said Noah Ready-Campbell, founder of Built Robotics, whose self-driving excavators have already worked on projects like a San Francisco-area community garden and site work at Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax, Calif.

With self-driving cars making headlines, it's no surprise that self-operating construction equipment is following close behind. One company, Built Robotics, which was founded in October 2017, is all about making autonomous construction equipment work in real-life conditions, ZDNet reported.

“I actually think we'll see autonomous equipment commonplace on job sites much sooner than on public roads, said Noah Ready-Campbell, founder of Built Robotics, whose self-driving excavators have already worked on projects like a San Francisco-area community garden and site work at Camp Tamarancho in Fairfax, Calif.

While the use of robotics has been prevalent in traditional manufacturing settings, bringing self-automated machines outdoors means a whole new list of potential hazards and complications for both the equipment and the people working alongside it. But, self-operating equipment tested on contained construction sites could still be safer than self-driving cars on public roads, ZDNet reported.

According to Ready-Campbell, the construction industry is showing interest in autonomous equipment because of the labor shortage, along with safety, ZDNet reported.

"Two-thirds of contractors report that they're having a hard time finding skilled workers," said Ready-Campbell. “So, they view automation as not even a way to reduce costs. It's more about enabling them to grow and take on more work that they would have to turn down otherwise."

Although it would need a worker to manage its functions, one Built machine could replace an entire crew on a work site, reducing costs, while boosting efficiency at the same time, since the machine could operate 24 hours each day, ZDNet reported. As for safety, Built machines contain three separate safety mechanisms, including object detection and obstacle avoidance, a geofence which contains the machine inside a designated operating area, and a kill switch, which is accessible both on the machine itself and via a wireless connection.