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New Volvo Self-Driving Refuse Truck Revealed

Manufacturer tests autonomous rubbish collection truck, how it functions plus the benefits to operators and society

How Volvo autonomous refuse truck works

The Volvo Group is testing its autonomous, self-driving, refuse truck that is safer, more eco-friendly and easier to use than traditional counterparts throughout 2017 in Sweden. You might, therefore, soon have to trust such a machine to manoeuvre safely around your home, your beloved vehicle and your white picket fence.

The truck cannot work autonomously straight from the factory, though. It first has to be driven manually – by a human being – around its rubbish collection route. It then interprets its surrounds via laser sensors and global positioning satellites. It learns where to wait to let the operator collect bins, for example.

The next trip is more automated. The operator drives to the route, stops at the first bin, gets out, empties the bin then presses a button on the exterior of the truck. It then reverses passed (say) a parked car then stops close to the next bin. The process repeats. 

Advantages of automation

Volvo perceives advantages to such a system. The truck has a better view of its surroundings – particularly at the rear - than a driver in its cab. It is more likely to see a child run into the road, a loose pet or a motorist pushing hard to overtake. It can then stop.

Further, it cannot cause a collision by not concentrating. It can never be tired having cared for a baby throughout the night, for example. It is never emotional, either – so cannot fly into a rage if you briefly block its route whilst manoeuvring your own vehicle. 

The autonomous truck also optimises speed, steering and gear selection to minimise fuel consumption. Such behaviour slashes running costs – and the savings could be spent on community projects. Lowering consumption is also good for the environment and public health. Pollution exasperates breathing issues, for example.

It makes life easier for the operator, too. There is less requirement to climb in/out the cab. This minimises the risk of slipping on its steps and wear to the knee joints. Furthermore, the truck follows in reverse to keep its compacter in closer proximity.

Manufacturer champions automated vehicles

Volvo Group Chief Technology Officer, Lars Stenqvist, said: “There is amazing potential to transform the swift pace of technical developments in automation into practical benefits for customers and, more broadly, for society in general.” Mr Stenqvist continued:

“Our self-driving refuse truck is leading the way in this field globally, and one of several exciting autonomous innovations we are working with right now.”