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Business Technology

Self-driving vehicle fleet for next generation airports

Designing an automation strategy and new technology concepts supporting the goal to introduce electrified self-driving vehicles to all the airport company’s locations.

Ascend designing automation strategy

A large airport company shifted from a traditional vehicle fleet to an automated and electrified vehicle fleet. The end goal was clear – to introduce electrified self-driving vehicles to all the airport company’s locations! However, getting there was a bit more difficult as the airport had about 1000 vehicles, many driven on fossil fuel or gas. Ascend helped the customer set the automation strategy and supported in introducing new enabling technology concepts. 

Moving to mostly automated and electrical vehicles seemed to be challenging; many aspects needed to be considered; security, infrastructure, efficiency, knowledge gap, re-allocation of work tasks for employees, sourcing processes and a lot more. How do you even start that transformation? In our experience, this is where many organizations get a little bit too excited, wanting to do it all at once and expect to get there quickly. 

With a high ambition but a realistic approach, the customer developed a strategy and a plan, partnered up with manufacturers, and started the automation journey. The program set up five pilot projects to try and evaluate the most beneficial vehicle type to begin with. By working closely with vehicle manufacturing partners, Ascend quickly assessed and prioritized the cases with the highest potential. One heavy work vehicle and one light work vehicle were selected to move into the project phase. 

The first sourcing project resulted in self-driving snowploughs for the landing strip at their largest airports. A snowplough is 27 meters long, and to shovel a landing strip eight snowploughs are used and drives after each other. The precision and time to preform the shovelling improved when introducing the automated snowploughs. Now the automation journey continues with new projects in line with the strategy. 

Breaking new ground in a technology area is some much more than just tech, it is an investment in your staff, your brand and company culture as well.

Johanna Häägg, Project Manager

Before the project started, there were worries like; Why go into an area with new and untested technology? Why not just wait until someone else has tested and developed it? That’s why one of the key takeaways from the project was extra exciting to see; the investment in the staff. The amount of knowledge and culture the organization was built upon was clearly a key strength and knowing they can lead the way and shape the future and not just follow others. It clearly showed that technology investments in organizations are a lot more than just technology, which is what Business Tech is all about at Ascend.

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Johanna Häägg


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