Volvo has been working on autonomy of vehicles for a while now, including consumer and commercial vehicles. The company has had an autonomous truck engaged in mining tasks in Sweden since last year, and has partnered with Uber to work on self-drive cabs in the ride hailing service. Now, Volvo has set its sights on the garbage cleaning sector, and is presently working on a self-driving truck that will aid operators deployed in collecting refuse bags.
The Volvo Autonomous Refuse Truck will be fit with 360-degree cameras and radar/proximity sensors, which will relay data to the central board that also collates with the onboard GPS system. The truck will need to be driven around a particular area once for the sensors and the GPS to map it. Following this, the human operator can deploy autonomous mode and simply follow it around to collect the garbage bins and put it in the truck. This relieves a lot of the job's difficult and strain, where the operator usually has to constantly steer the truck around narrow alleys, watch out for traffic and switch between driving and dumping garbage mulitple times.
Volvo's technique involves the truck reversing down the road to stop at garbage bins, which may not be implementable uniformly. Volvo is hence working on technology to perfect that bit, and states that the hardware is already in place for the truck to be able to steer itself in any direction. The operations here are not completely autonomous, and the operator will play an active role in stopping by the garbage bins and manually dumping them in the truck.
The Autonomous Refuse Truck is an important innovation for autonomous technology, and is being built to assist human effort and reduce workload. It is still far from reaching production, and trial runs will be crucial in letting Volvo learn about maneuvering a truck with large dimensions in narrow alleys with regular traffic.
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