Volvo Unveils New Futuristic Autonomous Truck
16 September 2018
Volvo Trucks, the manufacturing arm of Volvo Group, unveiled its new futuristic autonomous commercial vehicle self-driving, battery-electric, tractor-like unit called Vera.
Vera is low and sleek, has no space for a driver, and hooks up to a trailer using a fifth wheel and a kingpin. Vera is intended to take over short, repetitive routes based around fixed hubs like a shipping port, or any sort of dense industrial facility.
A central control center wirelessly communicates with the trucks, and the trucks can communicate with one another, coordinating their routes in the most efficient way possible. The control center can create routes based on the trucks' individual battery charge levels, cargo types, service requirements and specific locations. Vera is designed to use standard trailer hookups and employs a powertrain already found in Volvo's electric trucks, so the infrastructure for their use and maintenance already exists.
Volvo says the idea is for ‘Vera’ to be monitored by a cloud-based service, speeding up the worldwide business of logistics. Because a driverless truck doesn’t need to take breaks, or pull over in a grotty layby for a sleep at the end of a working day, it’d make enterprises that depend on trucking run more efficiently.
"Our system can be seen as an extension of the advanced logistics solutions that many industries already apply today," Mikael Karlsson, vice president of autonomous solutions for Volvo AB, said in a statement. "Since we use autonomous vehicles with no exhaust emissions and low noise, their operation can take place at any time of day or night. The solution utilizes existing road infrastructure and load carriers, making it easier to recoup costs and allowing for integration with existing operations."
Growing world population and increasing urbanization are leading to significant challenges to solve environmental issues such as congestion, pollution and noise. Rising consumption, the fast growth of e-commerce and the widespread shortage of drivers put higher demands on efficient transport solutions, according to Volvo.
Round the clock operations could mean faster delivery times for consumer products. Moreover, since the vehicles are electric, society can benefit from reduced noise, road congestion and exhaust emissions.
The chassis itself uses Volvo’s existing electric truck powertrain, which has a 185kW motor and has a range of up to 186 miles. It’ll also pull a standard trailer with loads of up to 32 tonnes.
Volvo Trucks is now presenting a new transport solution consisting of autonomous electric commercial vehicles that can contribute to more efficient, safer and cleaner transportation. The long-term goal is to offer companies that need continuous transport services between fixed hubs a complement to today’s offerings. Growing world population and increasing urbanization are leading to significant challenges to solve environmental issues such as congestion, pollution and noise. Rising consumption, the fast growth of e-commerce and the wide-spread shortage of drivers put higher demands on efficient transport solutions.
"The full potential of the transport industry is yet to be seen. Everything suggests that the global need for transportation will continue to significantly increase in the coming decade. If we are to meet this demand in a sustainable and efficient way, we must find new solutions. In order to secure a smoothly functioning goods flow system we also need to exploit existing infrastructure better than currently. The transport system we are developing can be an important complement to today's solutions and can help meet many of the challenges faced by society, transport companies and transport buyers," says Claes Nilsson, President Volvo Trucks.
Volvo Trucks' future transport solution is intended to be used for regular and repetitive tasks characterised by relatively short distances, large volumes of goods and high delivery precision. Transports between logistic hubs are typical examples, but additional use cases can also be applicable.
"Our system can be seen as an extension of the advanced logistics solutions that many industries already apply today. Since we use autonomous vehicles with no exhaust emissions and low noise, their operation can take place at any time of day or night. The solution utilises existing road infrastructure and load carriers, making it easier to recoup costs and allowing for integration with existing operations," explains Mikael Karlsson, Vice President Autonomous Solutions.
The operation is handled by autonomous electric vehicles linked to a cloud service and a transport control centre. The vehicles are equipped with sophisticated systems for autonomous driving. They are designed to locate their current position to within centimetres, monitor in detail and analyse what is happening with other road users, and then respond with high accuracy.
The transport control centre continuously monitors the progress of the transport and keeps an accurate watch of each vehicle's position, the batteries' charge, load content, service requirements and a number of other parameters. As with an industrial production process, speed and progress are tailored to avoid unnecessary waiting and to increase delivery precision. In this way it will be possible to minimise waste in the form of buffer stocks, and increase availability. Vehicles that operate on the same route cooperate to create optimal flow.
In the near future, Volvo Trucks' transport solution will be further developed together with selected customers in prioritized applications.
- Volvo Trucks is developing a new type of transport solution for repetitive transports involving high precision between fixed hubs, as a complement to today's solutions.
- The transport solution consists of autonomous, connected, electric vehicles and a transport control centre.
- The vehicles are used as tractor units and are compatible with existing load carriers/trailers.
- The propulsion is entirely electric with zero exhaust emissions and low noise levels. The driveline and battery pack are of the same type that are used in Volvo Trucks' electric trucks.
EXTRA REFERENCES: Volvo Group
|Written by: Peter Mateus|