Autonomous Construction Grabs Attention Post-COVID

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Robison Wells

We’ve been writing about the labor shortage in construction for years. Still, when the coronavirus struck, and things were being locked down and socially distanced, new interest arose in what’s known as autonomous construction.

One such tech company, Built Robotics, has an artificial intelligence system that incorporates into large machinery; it can retrofit excavators and bulldozers to work without a human operator.

According to Built Robotics, which was a small tech company a year ago, interest in their product has doubled starting in March. Before the outbreak, people wanted to investigate the technology and maybe run a trial or two, but now they want to see it in action.

They compare the interest to grocery delivery: it was available and somewhat used before COVID-19, but now it has become a system that people from all walks of life have come to rely on. They say the same is going to be true of autonomous construction.

The technology remains in very small numbers. Director of Communications Erol Ahmed says that doubling of interest doesn’t mean going from 1000 to 2000, but from 10 to 20.

Another driver of autonomous machinery is in the recent spread of wildfires. Bulldozers are a staple of firefighting, but it’s hard work in dangerous conditions. The chance to hand off some of that work to artificial intelligence is something that disaster organizations are looking at closely.

“A lot of these future technologies all of a sudden have become today technologies, if you like,” Ahmed said.

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