Volvo testing out autonomous garbage truck
Volvo is testing an autonomous, self-driving garbage truck (Volvo Group)
Published Thursday, May 18, 2017 10:38AM EDT
When it comes to self-driving technology, Volvo is already looking well beyond passenger cars for life-improving applications.
In partnership with Swedish waste collection firm Renova, the company is already testing an autonomous garbage truck on the road that is capable of automatically stopping at each bin that requires emptying.
"There is amazing potential to transform the swift pace of technical developments in automation into practical benefits for customers and, more broadly, society in general," said Lars Stenqvist, Chief Technology Officer, Volvo Group.
"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."
At the moment, the test truck can perfectly follow the pre-defined collection route, automatically stop if something or someone crosses its path, and can constantly sense its immediate vicinity to ensure it can safely reverse even in built-up urban environments.
There's also the added advantage that an autonomous truck can be pre-programmed to drive in the most environmentally responsible manner possible, placing a premium on fuel economy and waiting until it has passed a row of houses before changing up or down a gear in order to cut noise pollution.
With the truck driving itself, the driver doesn't need to constantly climb up into and back out of the cabin to deal with trash collection. Instead, he or she can walk alongside the truck as it navigates the route.
"One important benefit of the new technology is a reduction in the risk of occupational injuries, such as wear in knee joints -- otherwise a common ailment among staff working with refuse collection," said Stenqvist.
However, back injuries caused by manually handling garbage are just as common within the profession, and Volvo is also examining ways that robots could be deployed to collect, empty and return bins to households, automatically.
This project, also in partnership with Renova, has been in development since September 2015 and also counts Chalmers University of Technology and Mälardalen University in Sweden, and Penn State University in the United States as contributors. As well as making the process of waste collection safer for workers, the project is also a chance to examine how people will interact with robot co-workers.
Still, for the moment at least, that project, codenamed ROAR, is yet to move to the real-world testing phase.