Volvo Trucks along with Renova, a Swedish waste management company, is testing and research how automated vehicles can contribute to safer, more efficient refuse handling and create a better working environment for drivers.
The automated systems being tested are in principle the same as those fitted to the autonomous Volvo truck operating in the Kristineberg Mine in northern Sweden since autumn 2016.
Carl Johan Almqvist, Traffic & Product Safety Director, Volvo Trucks.234, says, “Driving a heavy commercial vehicle in an urban residential area with narrow streets and vulnerable road users naturally imposes major demands on safety, even when the vehicle’s speed doesn’t exceed a normal walking pace.
The refuse truck that the company testing continuously monitors its surroundings and immediately stops if there any obstacle.
The first time the automated refuse truck is used in a new area, it is driven manually while the on-board system constantly monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. Next time the truck enters the same area, it knows which route to follow and at which bins it has to stop.
At the first stop with the automated system activated, the driver climbs out of the cab, goes to the rear of the truck, brings out the wheelie-bin and empties it exactly the way the job is done today by operating the relevant controls. When the operation is completed, the truck automatically reverses to the next bin upon receiving the driver’s command. The driver walks the very same route that the truck takes and thus always has full view of what’s happening in the direction of travel. But why reverse instead of driving forward?
Further elaborating, Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager at Renova, says, “By reversing the truck, the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move”.
Reversing is otherwise a fairly risky maneuver since the driver may find it difficult to see who or what is moving behind the vehicle, even if it is fitted with a camera. In certain areas it is not allowed to reverse with a heavy commercial vehicle for safety reasons, in others it is a requirement that a co-driver must stand behind the truck to ensure that the road is clear before the vehicle is allowed to reverse. The solution being tested is designed to eliminate these issues.