Volvo’s fu­ture shock

Owner Driver - - Tech Briefs -

VOLVO TRUCKS has pre­sented a sur­pris­ing new trans­port so­lu­tion from its head­quar­ters in Gothen­burg, Swe­den, con­sist­ing of au­ton­o­mous elec­tric com­mer­cial ve­hi­cles that it says can con­trib­ute to more ef­fi­cient, safer and cleaner trans­porta­tion.

Ac­cord­ing to Volvo Trucks, its longterm goal is to of­fer com­pa­nies that need con­tin­u­ous trans­port ser­vices be­tween fixed hubs a com­ple­ment to to­day’s of­fer­ings.

The or­gan­i­sa­tion says grow­ing world pop­u­la­tion and in­creas­ing ur­ban­i­sa­tion 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,” says Claes Nils­son, pres­i­dent Volvo Trucks. “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.”

Volvo Trucks claims its 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,” ex­plains Mikael Karls­son, vice pres­i­dent au­ton­o­mous so­lu­tions. “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. Ob­vi­ously, this will af­fect driv­ers in these ap­pli­ca­tions, but in the big pic­ture we fore­see an in­creased need for skilled driv­ers,” Karls­son points out. “I strongly be­lieve that tech­nol­ogy drives pros­per­ity and takes so­ci­ety for­ward.”

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 and 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.

Above: Mikael Karls­son, vice pres­i­dent au­ton­o­mous so­lu­tions at Volvo Trucks

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