An example of collaborative work between OKTAL SCANeR, D-BOX Motion Cueing and CRIStAL.

When it comes to seaborne trade, the world is getting smaller. Globalization and the development of emerging economies have created significant opportunities over the last decade. But with that massive change comes challenges for the smaller ports. Traffic and space limitations are testing their ability to stay competitive. So how can these ports keep pace with the growth?

In Rotterdam, Düsseldorf and Hamburg the immediate solution was to automate the handling of goods using automatic guided vehicles (AGV). Although it resolved some internal traffic issues, it was not without its limitations. There was still a need for a long-term, cost-effective, cleaner, more reliable solution.  

Prof. Rochdi Merzouki, Professor of robotics and mechatronics at the Polytechnique Lille in the University Lille, France just might have the answer.

Merzouki is working with CRIStAL UMR CNRS 9189 (Research Centre in Computer Science, Signal and Automatic Control of Lille) to address this problem in an innovative way. With a team of experts, Merzouki is part of the European InTraDE project (Intelligent Transportation for Dynamic Environment) of the Interreg North West Europe Program.  

Created in 2009, InTraDE is charged with the task of increasing the productivity and improving the operational effectiveness of small and medium-sized ports in Northwest Europe through traffic management, space optimization, and Intelligent Autonomous Vehicles (IAV).

To meet the objectives, Merzouki has designed, tested and validated IAV prototypes that can be utilized in the confined spaces of port terminals.  Not only is he helping operators capitalize on this new reality, his solutions are keeping them competitive over the long run.  And D-BOX is playing a role that success.

“We have integrated D-BOX motion systems into our driving Cockpit, running through a virtual simulation software at the automated site because we know there’s no better way to recreate the sensations of the vehicle and give the driver a true feel for how the intelligent autonomous vehicle (IAV) operates,” says Merzouki.

“By integrating their cutting-edge motion systems into the IAV, we are able to relay information back to the cockpit and reproduce robotic sensations for the operator to create a hyper-realistic experience.”

Tested at small and medium facilities throughout Europe including Belgium’s Oostende port operation, the RobuTAINer’s AIV delivers real-time simulation in a virtual environment.

 “The beauty of the system is that operators can manually pilot the IAV using a joystick from a distance using a cockpit as a supervision platform or it can be automatically piloted based on GPS and sensor information,” says Merzouki.

The system gives users a state-of-the-art experience from which they can develop their operational skills in a safe and secure virtual environment.

“We’ve created an omni-directional robot that adapts to the environment and can be used day and night. It runs at maximum speed of 25 km/h and can load and unload containers using reach stackers and/or port cranes,” adds Merzouki.

To avoid delays and ensure information flows, the system utilizes GPS, instantly validates potential tire punctures and malfunctions and constantly monitors engine status, vertical component, roll and yaw.

The results so far have been exceptional giving ports in North West Europe the competitive edge they need to reduce the disparity between economically developed and less developed regions. It’s only a matter of time before it catches on all over the world.


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(Videos and images courtesy of InTraDE and CRIStAL)

CRIStAL (Research center in Computer Science, Signal and Automatic Control of Lille) is a laboratory (UMR 9189) of the National Center for Scientific Research, University Lille 1 and Centrale Lille in partnership with University Lille 3, Inria and Institut Mines Telecom. CRIStAL is the result of the fusion of the LAGIS (Laboratory of Automatic Control, Computer Engineering and Signal – UMR 8219) and of the LIFL (Laboratory of Fundamental Computing of Lille – UMR 8022) to federate their complementary competencies in information sciences. CRIStAL was born on January 1st, 2015. CRIStAL is one of the partner of the institute of interdisciplinary researches IRCICA-USR CNRS 3380 ( ). Main CRIStAL Research activities involve topics related to major scientific and social issues such as Big Data, software, image and its uses, human-computer interaction, robotics, control and supervision of large systems, intelligent vehicle systems, bio-informatics … with applications in retails, technologies for health, smart grids.