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Toronto company develops an autonomous truck retrofit package

In partnership with the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN), led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), Almon has developed an autonomous retrofit package for heavy-duty specialized vehicles.

TORONTO, March 30, 2021 – Almon is proud to announce the development of an autonomous truck, using technology developed in Ontario with funding support from the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) AV R&D Partnership Fund.

The new technology is a retrofit package for automation of existing trucks. Support from AVIN, combined with Almon’s private funding, comprised a project budget of around $1 million. Almon worked with project partners X-Matik to retrofit a 2020 Peterbilt truck with actuators and sensors, and the University of Waterloo Mechatronic Vehicle Systems Lab to develop the algorithms needed to enable autonomous operation.

“There are many potential benefits to using connected and autonomous vehicles on Ontario roads and improving road safety for drivers, passengers and people working on Ontario’s roads is at the top of that list,” said Caroline Mulroney, Ontario Minister of Transportation. “Ontario is pleased to support Ontario-based businesses like Almon who are thinking about the ways autonomous vehicle technology can improve safety in the transportation and trucking industry.”

Almon identified traffic control trucks as an ideal first application of this retrofit package. These trucks, equipped with a truck-mounted attenuator (TMA), are also known as crash trucks, and are commonly used on highways where construction or maintenance work is being carried out adjacent to live traffic lanes. 

“This innovative project by Almon, harnessing the expertise at University of Waterloo, illustrates how next generation vehicle technologies can improve road safety for drivers and maintenance crews alike,” said Vic Fedeli, Ontario Minister of Economic Development, Job Creation and Trade. “While our government works to help businesses recover from the COVID-19 pandemic, the Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) is fostering growth among small- and medium-sized technology companies, and positioning Ontario for long-term competitiveness.”

“The unfortunate reality is that people get injured in work zone related collisions far too often,” said Jamie Ally, Almon’s VP of Engineering. “Our objective is to improve road safety and reduce insurance costs, by introducing autonomous systems that can detect and avoid collisions, reduce risks, automate dangerous jobs, and ultimately save lives.” 

“Applications like the autonomous crash truck are important stepping-stones in the development of commercially viable technologies and the buildup of engineering expertise in AV/CV technologies in Ontario.”

Miller Maintenance, a division of Miller Paving Ltd, one of the largest contractors in Ontario, enthusiastically participated in this development opportunity. Miller operates over 30 crash trucks on the 400 series highways and suffers collisions each month. The opportunity to engage in a program that will improve the safety of workers motivated Miller to participate in the project. 

Crash trucks perform an important safety function. Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for a vehicle to stray into a highway closure, often at high speed and often resulting in a dangerous collision. The presence of the TMA truck, with its energy-absorbing attenuator, often saves the lives of the stray vehicle’s occupants as well as the work crew that the TMA truck is protecting. Over 700 fatal work zone crashes occur every year in the US, and 41% of those involve rear-end collisions

With further testing, it will eventually be possible to remove the driver from the crash truck, thereby removing a human driver from a dangerous on-road job. The truck’s systems will also provide Advanced Driver Assist Systems like adaptive cruise control and emergency braking. 

Through AVIN, Almon received $253,250 in support from the Ontario government, with a further $685,379 in industry contribution, for a total project value of $938,629.

About Almon

Almon is bringing the benefits of autonomous vehicle technologies and advanced driver assist systems to existing heavy-duty vehicle fleets. Based in Toronto, Almon is an established provider of services and equipment to the North American road and infrastructure services industry. In 2019 Almon launched its autonomous truck development program, in partnership with the University of Waterloo and AVIN. 

About AVIN:

The Autonomous Vehicle Innovation Network (AVIN) is a Government of Ontario program, led by the Ontario Centre of Innovation (OCI), designed to reinforce Ontario’s position as a North American leader in transportation technology and infrastructure systems. Through resources such as research and development (R&D) support, talent development, technology acceleration, business and technical supports, and demonstration grounds, AVIN provides a competitive advantage to Ontario-based CAV companies.

About the University of Waterloo

University of Waterloo is a leading global innovation hub that drives economic and social prosperity for Canada and the world. With more than 41,000 students, we are home to the world’s largest co-op education talent pipeline, to game-changing research and technology, and to an unmatched entrepreneurial culture. Together, these create partnerships and solutions to tackle today’s and tomorrow’s challenges. Find out more at uwaterloo.ca


Media contact:

Jamie Ally, PhD, P.Eng

VP Engineering