Robins & Morton, Honda Test Autonomous Work Vehicle on Jacksonville Construction Site

Construction firm Robins & Morton and Honda teamed up to test the use of an Autonomous Work Vehicle (AWV) on Mayo Clinic’s North Tower addition construction site beginning May 15 in Jacksonville, Florida.

Throughout the weeklong field test, Honda’s all-electric AWV transported construction materials from a storage area to the North Tower site about a mile away without a human driver. Instead, it was designed to operate autonomously following a pre-programmed path, including pickup and drop-off points. Its various sensors use GPS to determine location, radar and LiDAR to detect obstacles, and stereoscopic 3D cameras to enable remote monitoring.

As hiring skilled labor in construction continues to be challenging, companies are turning to autonomous, robotic solutions to assist workers in completing time-consuming or repetitive tasks, such as delivering material. This approach allows skilled workers to spend more time performing their craft.

The 125,000-square-foot North Tower addition is one of only a few construction sites to have access to this technology, applying it to real-world operations. The field tests are a result of a collaboration between Robins & Morton and Honda, which began in 2022.

Testing focused on two major objectives: determining how the vehicle would respond to site conditions and how construction crews could best use it. The vehicle is a prototype, so the team’s observations are essential to ensuring that engineers upgrade the AWV’s functionality to make the vehicle as safe as possible.

“In helping Honda fine-tune the ‘brains’ of the autonomous functionality, we envisioned all of the functions the AWV might be used for,” Robins & Morton Director of Corporate and Operational Technology David Pratt said. “Down the road, it will be scalable, depending on the needs. We’ll be able to combine it with different types of equipment – such as street sweepers or forklifts – and the equipment will be modifiable.”

Mayo Clinic’s North Tower project adds five floors on top of the existing building and 121 inpatient beds, as well as 56 ICU beds. It also includes space for eight operating rooms and procedural space for cardiology, gastroenterology, hepatology, and other departments. This project was ideal for testing because it is a vertical expansion with little space for material storage onsite.

“Moving into the spring, we’ll be doing a full pilot with Robins & Morton, with a couple of our generation three [AWVs], hopefully on a site like this,” Honda Systems Engineering Manager Jason VanBuren said. “[In the future] We’ll be able to support construction companies, landscape, agriculture, and really just diversify our portfolio of what we can provide to the customer. That’s our number one goal: to make the customer happy and give them what they want.”