TOKYO -- Japanese builder Taisei is breaking ground on automated construction machinery that will help conserve scarce labor, aiming to take humans off some projects entirely by 2025.
The contractor has started developing a control system that will let machinery operate on its own. First, sensors affixed to various machines will gather information on how skilled operators use equipment. Then, a series of simulations will train an artificial intelligence system to respond to various situations on the ground. Whether the machines can adequately operate on their own will be tested in a controlled environment in fiscal 2018. Automated equipment clearing that hurdle could be tested at actual job sites the following year.
Taisei has already created the basics of an image-recognition system that can identify humans and obstacles and predict which direction workers will move using machine-mounted cameras, helping avoid potentially dangerous situations. Future training will help refine those capabilities.
The two technologies will first be tested on a vibrating roller, used to compact fill dirt, and then on machinery used to break up rock. Progress on this front will both render supervisory staff unnecessary for certain tasks and pave the way for automating machinery such as bulldozers that take more finesse to operate. The ultimate goal is to enable fully automated construction at certain sites by 2025, making up for the loss of expertise as skilled laborers age out of the workforce.