Imagine a world where garbage trucks move from house to house, trash can to trash can, collecting waste without anyone getting their hands dirty.
That’s the future Volvo dreams of.
In partnership with Swedish waste and recycling specialist Renova, Volvo Group is testing a self-driving refuse truck.
The project, according to the manufacturer, aims to prove how automation can enhance traffic safety, improve working conditions, and lower environmental impact.
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“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,” Volvo Chief Technology Officer Lars Stenqvist said in a statement.
“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,” he added.
The yellow trash trucks look like any other lorry rolling down the street, collecting yesterday’s scraps (aside from the giant “autonomous refuse truck” sign on the side).
But the deceptively high-tech machine is chock full of sensors for identification, navigation, and monitoring the vehicle’s vicinity, alerting the system to steer around or stop for obstacles.
Following a pre-programmed route, the truck navigates itself from one wheelie bin to the next. The driver, meanwhile, walks ahead of the reversing vehicle, instead of climbing in and out of the cab to move each container.
“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,” according to Stenqvist.
Volvo also boasts “major” environmental updates: Gear changing, steering, and speed are optimized for low fuel consumption and emissions.
The autonomous truck, currently undergoing tests in Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden, will continue its trials through the end of the year. There is no word on when, or if, Volvo will add the tech-savvy freighters to its fleet.
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