Volvo’s futuristic transport platform uses autonomous electric tractor units
The primary development goals of the system are improving efficiency, safety and ecological footprint in transportation, Volvo Trucks said. The long-term goal is to offer companies that need continuous transport services between fixed hubs a complement to today’s offerings.
In terms of development, Volvo assumes that demand for road-bound transport capacity will continue to rise. “Everything suggests that the global need for transportation will continue to significantly increase in the coming decade”, said Claes Nilsson, President Volvo Trucks. To meet this demand, it will be necessary to exploit existing infrastructure better than currently. The transport solution under development 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 battery pack used for the future platform is the same as the one used in Volvo’s current electric trucks.
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, the company said.