Volvo has taken to the streets of Sweden with a fully-functional self-driving prototype - though perhaps not in the way you’d expect.
In this instance Volvo Trucks has handed self-driving duties over to a garbage truck, capable of navigating streets by itself with the low-speed maneuvering of a regular rubbish collection ideally suited to autonomous driving development.
The first time Volvo’s self-driving truck is introduced to a new route a human driver handles the controls while the truck's on-board systems logs the route via GPS and a sensor array. On the next visit the truck drives itself, while the driver grabs wheelie bins and loads them into the compactor unit at the back.
While a human would normally complete a collection route going forwards, Volvo’s system gets the truck to run in reverse, allowing the driver to stay nearer the compactor while still keeping an eye on the vehicle's progress.
Without the need to drive in an out of the cabin, driver strain and injury risk is reduced, and unlike Australian bin-runs where two or sometimes three operators share driving and loading responsibilities, Volvo’s system helps keep staffing costs down. Further savings though efficiant triving, gear selection, and engine speed control are also possible.
Should the truck spot anything moving near it or an obstacle that suddenly appears on the road, it will stop and await clearance from the human operator before proceeding, with a full 360-degree monitoring range providing better coverage of the area surrounding the truck than human eyes could.
The automated garbage truck trial will run in Sweden until the end of 2017 with Volvo Truck monitoring data, not only on the vehicle's performance, but also its acceptance by other road users and local area residents.