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Refining Autonomous Vehicles With BP

BP and autonomous software developer Oxbotica has recently completed the world’s first autonomous vehicle trial in the energy sector, more specifically at a refinery.

The trial was done in BP’s Lingen refinery in Germany with the purpose of deploying autonomous vehicles at the site being to improve safety, increase efficiency and decrease carbon emissions. The autonomous vehicle drove 180km autonomously within the confinements of the refinery, which contained complex traffic situations such as busy junctions, narrow paths, railway crossings and different type of terrain. The vehicle also operated during both night and day and through unpredictable weather conditions.

BP states that the autonomous vehicle can play a role in enhacing human operations by increasing the monitoring for irregular conditions, faulty equipment and security threats, making it more frequent and around the clock.

The announcement of this finalized trial follows a $13m equity investment in Oxbotica by BP’s venture arm.

Personal comment

There is a sobering realization in that autonomous vehicles have a long road in front of them yet before they will reach full autonomy in the wild domain of public roads. Therefore, it is becoming increasingly popular to find applications of autonomous vehicles within confined areas. The energy sector is now beginning to join those others, such as: cargo loading hubs, manufacturing plants, mining, agriculture and landfill sites. The drivers for adopting autonomous vehicles within these types of sites are usually similar to those mentioned in the current newsarticle, namely increasing efficiency, improving safety and reducing emissions. 

We might see more and more of this trend. Namely smaller companies developing autonomous vehicles moving towards other niches to try and monetize the ‘off-road’ applications, which hopefully will provide cash flow that can be injected back towards their core on-road R&D. 

Written by Daban Rizgary,
RISE Mobility & Systems (Människa-autonomi)

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