Japanese mini-trucks like the Honda Acty are the workhorse of that country, used by everyone from farmers to firefighters, carpenters to contractors. The kei-class vehicles are compact, reliable and hardy, and the beds have sidewalls that fold down, quickly turning them into flatbeds.
Now Honda has prototyped a cab-less, electric autonomous version called the AWV (Autonomous Work Vehicle).
To put the vehicle through its paces in a U.S. environment, the company has partnered with engineering and construction firm Black & Veatch to put a fleet of AWVs on-site at a 1,000-acre solar installation in New Mexico.
Instead of having workers in pickups hauling supplies around, a small fleet of AWVs ferried materials and water for the crew to various points on the jobsite. Foremen were trained to use tablets to program the AWV's routes on a map, and also to pilot them via remote control for delicate maneuvers.
The AWVs can each haul 880 pounds, can tow 1,600 pounds, have a turning radius less than 13 feet and a range of up to nearly 28 miles per charge. The testing period ran for a month, and here's how they did: