In a move that highlights the variety of potential uses for autonomous driving technologies, Volvo has announced that it is testing a self-driving refuse truck.
The project, part of the company’s ongoing focus on self-driving vehicles, is a partnership with Swedish waste and recycling specialists Renova.
During the trial, scheduled to last until the end of the year, the partners will look at how automation can help to enhance traffic safety and improve working conditions.
“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.”
The self-driving truck is designed to make driving safer in built-up areas, particularly when reversing. The vehicle uses sensors to monitor its surroundings and react if an obstacle appears in its path.
The truck also drives itself from one wheelie bin to the next, allowing the driver to focus on bin collection.
Volvo said that the trial would support refuse workers at risk of common injuries. “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.
In addition, Volvo believes its autonomous truck technology can benefit the environment, with automated gear-changing, steering and speed controls helping to optimise fuel consumption and reduce emissions.
However, such projects are also likely to fuel fears about the potential loss of driving jobs in an increasingly automated world. In 2016, the White House predicted that as many as 3 million of today’s driving jobs could eventually be threatened by automated vehicle technology.