Refuse truck fol­lows for­wards or in re­verse

The Witness - Wheels - - TRANSPORT - — WR.

SWEDISH waste man­age­ment com­pany Ren­ova and Volvo Trucks are test­ing how au­to­mated ve­hi­cles can con­trib­ute to safer, more ef­fi­cient refuse han­dling and cre­ate a bet­ter work­ing en­vi­ron­ment for driv­ers.

The au­to­mated sys­tems be­ing tested are in prin­ci­ple the same as those fit­ted to the au­ton­o­mous Volvo truck op­er­at­ing in the Kristineberg Mine in north­ern Swe­den since au­tumn 2016.

Carl Jo­han Almqvist, traf­fic and prod­uct safety di­rec­tor, Volvo Trucks, said the sys­tems used in the refuse truck be­ing tested con­tin­u­ously mon­i­tor its sur­round­ings and im­me­di­ately stop if an ob­sta­cle sud­denly ap­pears on the road.

The first time the au­to­mated refuse truck is used in a new area, it is driven man­u­ally while the on-board sys­tem con­stantly mon­i­tors and maps the route with the help of sen­sors and GPS tech­nol­ogy. The next time the truck en­ters the same area, it knows ex­actly which route to fol­low and at which bins it has to stop.

Driver leads the way

At the first stop with the au­to­mated sys­tem ac­ti­vated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and emp­ties it ex­actly the way the job is done today by op­er­at­ing the rel­e­vant con­trols.

When the op­er­a­tion is com­pleted, the truck au­to­mat­i­cally re­verses to the next bin upon re­ceiv­ing the driver’s com­mand. The driver walks the very same route that the truck takes and thus al­ways has full view of what’s hap­pen­ing in the di­rec­tion of travel.

But why re­verse in­stead of driv­ing for­ward?

“By re­vers­ing the truck, the driver can con­stantly re­main close to the com­pactor unit in­stead of hav­ing to re­peat­edly walk be­tween the rear and the cab ev­ery time the truck is on the move. And since the driver doesn’t have to climb in and out of the cab at ev­ery start and stop, there’s less risk of work-re­lated in­juries such as strain on the knees and other joints,” says Hans Zachris­son, strate­gic de­vel­op­ment man­ager at Ren­ova.

Re­vers­ing is oth­er­wise a fairly risky ma­noeu­vre since the driver may find it dif­fi­cult to see who or what is mov­ing be­hind the ve­hi­cle, even if it is fit­ted with a cam­era. In cer­tain ar­eas it is not al­lowed to re­verse with a heavy com­mer­cial ve­hi­cle for safety rea­sons, in oth­ers it is a re­quire­ment that a co-driver must stand be­hind the truck to en­sure that the road is clear be­fore the ve­hi­cle is al­lowed to re­verse.

The so­lu­tion be­ing tested is de­signed to elim­i­nate these is­sues. Since sen­sors mon­i­tor the area all around the refuse truck, driv­ing is equally safe no mat­ter the di­rec­tion in which the ve­hi­cle is mov­ing.

And if for in­stance the street is blocked by a parked car, the refuse truck can au­to­mat­i­cally drive around the ob­struc­tion pro­vided there is suf­fi­cient space along­side.

Since the au­to­mated sys­tems op­ti­mise gear changes, steer­ing and speed, fuel con­sump­tion and emis­sions can also be re­duced. Al­though the tech­ni­cal scope al­ready ex­ists, a lot of re­search, test­ing and de­vel­op­ment re­mains be­fore self-driv­ing refuse trucks can be­come a re­al­ity.

The project will con­tinue all year and will be fol­lowed by an ex­tremely thor­ough eval­u­a­tion of func­tion­al­ity, safety and how well this type of ve­hi­cle is ac­cepted by driv­ers and lo­cal res­i­dents.

Ve­hi­cles with vary­ing de­grees of au­to­ma­tion will prob­a­bly be in­tro­duced ear­lier in other ap­pli­ca­tions, where trans­port as­sign­ments take place within strictly con­fined ar­eas such as mines and cargo ter­mi­nals.

PHOTO: VOLVO

A ro­bot dump truck re­verses down a lane to fol­low its driver.

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