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[From the Scene] HD Hyundai offers a glimpse of second-gen autonomous construction equipment

Sept. 22, 2023 - 09:38 By Moon Joon-hyun
HD Hyundai Infracore's Concept X-2 Develon Excavator (top) and the Develon DDX100CX dozer, are seen during a demonstration event in Boryeong, South Chungcheong Province, Wednesday. (HD Hyundai)

HD Hyundai Infracore, the construction equipment arm of HD Hyundai, revealed the future of construction technology at Boryeong Proving Ground, a mock construction site in Boryeong, South Chungcheong Province on Wednesday. The company showcased their second-generation Concept-X equipment, an update following the introduction of the first generation in 2019.

Concept-X represents the company's concept integrated IT-driven construction management system. This system employs drone 3D scanning to survey construction sites. After collecting terrain data, it devises a work strategy, directing unmanned machinery to complete tasks.

Central to the reveal event were demonstrations of the Concept X-2 Develon Excavator and Concept X-2 Develon DDX100CX dozer that can function autonomously or be controlled remotely over short distances.

"With the declining number of skilled technicians, innovations like these help bridge the gap,” said Lee Dong-wook, president of Hyundai Infracore. Lee said the aim is to achieve at least 80 percent of the efficiency of skilled human operators.

“It’s not just about productivity, but flexibility. Consider high-altitude construction sites; these machines promise a consistent performance," he added.

Standing on the sand mound of Boryeong Proving Ground, the Concept X-2 Develon Excavator stood out with its new cabinless design based on Hyundai’s Linear Core design language, complete with sleek LED lighting.

It relies heavily on its lidar sensor and an underpinning of machine learning, streamlining its operations. This combination enables the excavator to chart out optimal digging trajectories.

During the demonstration, a live display of the mapping terrain drawn by the lidar sensor showed how the excavator moved in conjunction with the guidance.

While its real-time terrain recognition seemed slower than a human operator, it effectively executed its digging and dumping operations. Hyundai officials reported a 13 percent increase in operational speed compared to its X-1 predecessor.

A notable addition in this new concept model is the tiltrotator, which allows for a 45-degree up-and-down tilt and a 360-degree side-to-side rotation. This enhancement provides the excavator with more flexibility, eliminating the need for equipment swaps, such as the V-ditch bucket, during various excavation tasks.

Also showcased was the X-2 dozer, a repurposed model of Hyundai's pre-existing, non-autonomous Develon DD100 dozer. This dozer autonomously adjusted its blade, employing a GNSS system for location updates and a lidar sensor for environment assessment.

Its safety system paused operations when a member of Hyundai's staff inadvertently stepped in its way, resuming only once the path was clear.

Kwon Yong-cheol, head of the Smart Excavator Technology Team, explains the mechanisms of Concept X-2 construction equipment to the group of reporters at the Boryeong Proving Ground on Wednesday. (Moon Joon Hyun/The Korea Herald)

For tasks requiring precision, the dozer can be controlled by a joystick, enabling accurate remote operation. This is especially useful in hazardous environments. "For challenging terrains like cliffs, ditches or disaster zones, the joystick mode enhances safety by allowing remote operation," said Kwon Yong-cheol, head of the Smart Excavator Technology Team.

This joystick's functionality relies on robust communication channels, either via Wi-Fi or RF technology. In ideal conditions, the system operates seamlessly up to a range of 500 meters. However, obstacles can reduce its effective range to approximately 150 meters.

While the joystick offers a novel experience, the actual practicalities of controlling the dozer beyond the 150-meter range, even with an aerial display, remained uncertain.

Although Hyundai officials introduced the first-generation Concept-X with an aim for commercialization in 2025, the company did not specify a release date for the new models at the event.

“It's not just our readiness that's crucial. Our customers' diverse needs, sites and circumstances mean these machines must undergo thorough testing before entering mass production," said President Lee.