Pilot Experiments

ExcaBOT: An Autonomous Excavator for Higher Safety and Efficiency Enabled by Digital Technologies

Istanbul, Turkey

Virtual Vehicle Research Center

Experiment objective

Every year in the construction industry all over the world, people are killed or injured as a result of being struck by moving construction machines.  Vehicle reversing operations cause a third of all fatal transport accidents in the construction industry, producing an average of five deaths and 20 major injuries per year. To provide safety while enhancing the operational efficiency, digital technologies should be used. Autonomy and remote operation of construction machinery in construction sector has a great potential transferring manufacturing industry digitalization gains (Industry 4.0) to the construction industry. Autonomous and tele-operated construction equipment can be operated with little or no human intervention for performing specified tasks in high safety and efficiency. SmartUniversal proposal is to enable safe and accurate control of excavators (tracks and arms) operating in autonomous modes, avoiding collisions with obstacles, other machines, or people in the construction site thanks to sensor fusion and machine vision technologies. This experiment will accelerate the uptake of digital technologies in the construction area by introducing and demonstrating autonomous operation of excavators in real environment.


  • Challenge 1: Excavators present hazards, such as restricted visibility and lack of driver protection from the effects of overturning, noise, and vibration. These are even more severe for older excavator models. Materials handling vehicles such as excavators are at risk of overturning when overloaded, working on sloping, uneven or unstable ground or driving with raised loads.
  • Challenge 2: Stability under all foreseeable operating conditions with lack of human error
  • Challenge 3: Adequate visibility for the operator all around the vehicle (operator only checking from outside)
  • Challenge 4: Protection for the operator from hazards, such as working at height, falling objects, and overturning
  • Challenge 5: Protection of operator from the weather, noise, vibration, noxious fumes, and dusts.

Implementation Solution

In our project, we will demonstrate autonomously operating excavator for certain excavating tasks for optimised excavation work in most efficient way (high excavation in short time) while not risking operational safety. To provide a proof for the concept, we will demonstrate a real-life use-case which will not only involve the detection and recognition of the construction workers in the test site using perception methods and related sensors such as camera and LIDAR but also showcase the more efficient excavation operation. The safety system will generate a hard warning signal when the construction workers enter the predetermined unsafe area within a dangerous proximity.
To demonstrate autonomous operation of an excavator we have to:

  • Migrate an existing control strategy for autonomous excavators operation from lab (TRL4) to real excavator in real construction environment (TRL7)
  • Together with the DIH Virtual Vehicle, develop a co-simulation environment supporting multi-agent simulation enabling the uptake of control strategies toward autonomous, collaborative systems
  • Demonstrate for excavation of a building basement by autonomous excavator in Istanbul, Turkey (LOIs from OEMs & Metropolitan Municipality). Experiment will be done on a sensor-based and automatized standard heavy excavator.

We will be using sensor fusion for LIDAR, stereo / cameras for autonomous operation of the excavator to move forward and backward, dig-transfer earth and avoid all collisions to other machines and people in the area (any object larger and taller than a traffic cone, within 5 metre range)


Experiment presentation on the website: https://smartuniversal.com/