Volvo’s had an autonomous truck operating in a Swedish mine since 2016. Now, the same technology that powers that truck will go toward creating a self-driving garbage truck.
Volvo announced that it’s working with Renova, a Swedish waste management company, to develop and deploy an autonomous garbage truck. It should be a proper workout for Volvo’s self-driving tech, given the vehicle’s size versus the narrow, busy streets it must move through.
Its truck is first driven through an area manually, so its sensors and GPS can map the route. Upon returning to that area, the truck will know where to go and how often to stop. At that point, the operator can switch the truck to autonomous mode and climb out back to put garbage in the truck, like usual.
After dumping garbage into the truck, the operator issues a command and the truck drives itself to the next bin, with the operator following along. The truck will reverse from spot to spot, instead of driving forward, using sensors to bring the truck to a stop if it detects any sort of obstacle.
Reversing down the street isn’t ideal in every situation, and Volvo is working on a solution for that. But the company claims the truck is safe while driving in any direction, since its sensors and cameras cover a 360-degree area around the truck.
The hope is that the truck will be able to reduce operator strain from constantly moving between cab and compactor. The system is built to optimize steering, speed and gear changes, so it can also help reduce fuel consumption and overall tailpipe emissions. For now, this remains a pilot project, running until the end of 2017. It may still be years away from completion, but it’s an important step in moving autonomous technology beyond passenger cars.