Motional has partnered with Eversource to launch a pilot program where autonomous vehicles will monitor energy infrastructure and support ongoing maintenance. The new program was inspired by Motional’s desire to have its technology serve beyond just automotive for the purpose of enriching the local communities in which the company and its partners operate. “The potential for driverless technology is limitless and goes far beyond personal mobility,” Motional said in a statement.
As explained by Motional in this recent blog post, the company is already testing and operating a fleet of vehicles globally. And while that testing is necessary for developing a robust and safe autonomous driving platform, there are other applications when considering the overall capabilities of Motional’s sensor suite. One such application is real-time monitoring of urban infrastructure.
“Our test vehicles pass potholes, downed trees, power lines, and stalled traffic signals – among a myriad of other road occurrences that human drivers also face,” said Gretchen Effgen, Motional’s VP of Go To Market and Marketing. “The purpose of this pilot was to test how our vehicles’ sensors could be used to transmit this information for faster assessment and fixes. We see an exciting opportunity for autonomous vehicles to enable real-time infrastructure monitoring.”
Motional & Eversource Join Forces
Eversource serves over four million electric and natural gas customers in New England. Motional’s test vehicles collect vital information on Eversource’s utilities infrastructure in a designated test area. From there, Motional’s vehicles essentially “survey” a segment of Eversource’s infrastructure, collecting information on electric poles and wires, and automatically transmitting that information to Eversource’s database through an end-to-end data solution.
“With Motional, we have one of the leaders in the autonomous vehicle industry, right in our backyard,” said Jaydeep Deshpande, Eversource Program Manager for Substation Analytics. “This partnership will be focused on developing future inspection solutions by combining Motional’s state-of-the-art vehicle platform with our in-house machine learning tools.”
Motional will assist Eversource’s preventative maintenance program by monitoring for ongoing repairs and assessing damage from severe weather events with its vehicle fleet. According to Motional and Eversource, the goal is to use the data to reduce power outages and improve service. “It is an important part of our efforts to help make our inspection and maintenance processes more efficient, and we look forward to continuing our work together to better serve our customers,” Deshpande added.
“Our partnership with Eversource lays the foundation for collaboration between the autonomous vehicle and energy industries,” Effgen said. “With energy infrastructure a ubiquitous part of roadways around the world, there’s an immense market for autonomous vehicles to provide more effective and efficient monitoring.”