Volvo testing its autonomous garbage truck in Sweden

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【Summary】Swedish automaker Volvo is working with local waste management company Renova, on testing a self-driving refuse truck in Sweden.

Original Claire    May 19, 2017 10:18 AM PT
Volvo testing its autonomous garbage truck in Sweden

Swedish automaker Volvo is working with local waste management company Renova, on testing a self-driving refuse truck in Sweden.

Last year, the carmaker was testing an autonomous truck in a Swedish mine. Now Volvo wants to make a truck drive itself to alleviate the work of waste management staff.

How does the truck work?

The original information collection process still needs manual driving for data input.

When the autonomous truck enters an area for the first time, it is driven manually while the truck's on-board systems monitor and map the route using LiDAR and GPS. The next time the truck enters the same area, it will know which route to follow, and which house to stop at next. As soon as the truck "knows the area" and stops at a certain garbage pickup location, the waste management employee will exit the truck, collect the garbage can, and empty it as usual.

One thing to note is that during the garbage collection process, the truck will drive in reverse each time the employee finishes a trash collection and presses the truck's button to give notice.


To explain the reasoning behind this, Renova's Strategic Development Manager, Hans Zachrisson said that by driving in reverse the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit, instead of running repetitive trips between the rear of the truck and the cab.

"Since the driver doesn't have to climb in and out of the cab at every start and stop, there's less risk of work related injuries such as strain on the knees and other joints," he said.

Meanwhile, big trucks backing up can be a dangerous maneuver, since it's often difficult for the driver in truck to see what's behind the vehicle, even with a camera. When the self-driving truck reverses itself, the waste management staff can stand near the rear, clearly monitoring the surroundings. Since there are sensors detecting the surrounding area of the refuse truck, driving is equally safe no matter which direction the vehicle is moving.

"The refuse truck we are testing continuously monitors its surroundings and immediately stops if an obstacle suddenly appears on the road. At the same time, the automated system creates better prerequisites for the driver to keep a watchful eye on everything that happens near the truck," says Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic & Product Safety Director of Volvo Trucks.

The current testing phase is expected to run until the end of 2017, with thorough evaluation and analysis to follow. In terms of how well-received it is by garbage collection staff, community residents and other road users, Volvo said in its company release that it aims to apply autonomous vehicles with various levels of automation into different fields, including cargo terminals, mines, garbage collection, etc.

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