Thursday, September 13, 2018

Autonomous Road Freight Vehicles to be Wirelessly Connected

New Systems Aimed at Haulage Industry
Shipping News Feature
EUROPE – Volvo used the opportunity presented by its Group Innovation Summit in Berlin this week to unveil a new approach to the control of autonomous vehicles, and the technology is specifically aimed at the road haulage and bus transport sector. Many of the concerns regarding autonomous transport surround the current eclectic mix of private vehicles and how future technology will be integrated into the real world. Mandatory controls for road freight technology are much simpler to legislate for and enforce.

Volvo is proposing a wireless connectivity between on road vehicles and a transport control centre. The control centre monitors parameters such as each vehicle’s location, load and battery charge, using this data to ensure that the overall fleet logistics as well as goods and vehicle flow are as efficient as possible. The system is intended for use within areas characterised by short distances, large cargo volumes and high delivery precision, for example between logistic hubs.

By further developing the advanced technology from Volvo’s electric buses Volvo Group is able to tailor it to suit the electrification of various vehicle categories, such as trucks, construction machines and marine and industrial applications. In parallel, Volvo Group has for many years conducted in-depth research into autonomous vehicles and presented several examples of self-driving concept vehicles. The new goods transport solution will be further developed in close cooperation with relevant customers. Lars Stenqvist, Chief Technology Officer Volvo Group, commented:

“This is yet another result of the exciting and innovative solutions we are working with in the areas of automation, electro-mobility and connectivity. It showcases the Volvo Group’s immense range of expertise and our solid technological knowhow. This puts us in a unique position for the development of next-generation transport solutions. Now we are continuing to pursue our development at a fast pace.”

The Volvo system, currently more of a monitoring process, provides an opportunity to literally road test technological developments with regard to self-driving vehicles. This is achievable due to the introduction of more possibilities to control such vehicles via the wireless connection. The new concept is illustrated in a Volvo corporate video which shows Volvo Truck’s concept HGV unit VERA in action. Such vehicles of course make the idea of things such as mandatory rests and the Working Time Directive redundant

Although the speed of systems specifically concerned with autonomy are moving at a very rapid pace, the acceptance of artificially intelligent cars and trucks making decisions in real world situations are a hard sell to the general public. If the vehicle is in control does it favour the safety of the driver above that of the stray pedestrian in its path? By utilising the technology in the transport industry it may be that acceptance will grow gradually dependant on how these new systems perform.

Photo: Volvo’s concept HGV has a very different look with the abandonment of the idea of in cab control.