VOLVO Truck said it “will not jeopardise its safety philosophy” and will officially launch its autonomous trucks on the road when it is 100 per cent safe for everyone.
In an interview with CBT, its mobility and automation director, Hayder Wokil, said the company had plans to introduce autonomous trucks to assist truck drivers and added that “safety is the main priority for our customers and all road users”.
“Safety is associated with Volvo and Volvo is associated with safety... It is in our DNA as Volvo,” Wokil told CBT.
“So, when all the pieces of the puzzle are in place, then we will start to see autonomous trucks on the road, and this will take time.”
Wokil, who is a civil engineer with 20 years of experience in the international transport and trucking industry, said autonomous trucks would happen only after the infrastructure, such as an IT corridor and communication connectivity, was in place and society was ready for it.
Wokil explained that pilot tests had been going on in closed areas, such as mines, airports, terminals, harbours and construction sites. There is the mining research project in Sweden, with trucks running driverless in the mine.
“Once it leaves the closed area, the driver will have to transport it manually. We do automation function to help increase productivity and to enhance the safety,” said Wokil.
He said for the automation to work in the mine, the truck has to be driven for the first time to scan all the walls, ceilings, and the rocks.
“Then the truck will follow that path from the second time onwards,” he said.
He added that the technologies needed for the automation varies according to conditions. For open pit mining, it required local and global GPS, while in mines, it used Wifi and other network technologies.
“Some of the mines and tunnels, they have already introduced 5G speed to fetch and send the information. It is necessary to have the 5G speed to transfer the data,” he said.
Truck platooning is linking two or more trucks in a convoy, using connectivity technology and automated driving support systems. These trucks automatically maintain a close distance between each other when they are connected on the journey. If any vehicle cuts in the middle of the convoy, the system will automatically switch from Platoon mode to Adaptive Cruise Control mode.
Platooning has the potential to help fleet owners reduce the cost of transportation and fatigue from the drivers during long-distance driving. With a constant speed, it would lower the fuel consumption and CO2 emission.
Wokil said since 2008, truck companies had started to demonstrate and promote truck automation through platooning. In 2009, there was a project called Sartre (Safe Road Trains for the Environment), where Volvo cars and trucks did a demonstration in Spain between three cars and two trucks to show how the system works.
“Then, in 2016, we participated in the European Truck Platooning challenge, which is a single brand platoon. We were one of the many European OEMs who drove in platooning, crosses borders in Europe, from our home in Gothenburg, Sweden, all the way to Rotterdam, Netherlands, which is 1,131km through Denmark and Germany,” Wokil said.
Wokil said moving forward, Volvo Trucks would be participating in a multi-brand truck platooning project on European roads, as most of the fleet owners operated with multiple brands.
“We are positive and pushing for it from Volvo Trucks. If we can go out with a technology that fits, then we have a standard that works across brands. It benefits the customers and the industry,” Wokil said.
Wokil expects autonomous trucks to be on the highways in less than 10 years’ time, depending on legislation, infrastructure and society acceptance.
“It will take some time. I would not say 10 years, maybe sooner,” said Wokil.