Its latest autonomous truck, called Vera, is about to embark on its first assignment, transporting goods around a port terminal in Gothenburg, Sweden.
While its previous autonomous vehicles look like regular trucks with the smarts contained inside, Vera sports an impressively futuristic design that takes Volvo’s self-driving efforts to a whole new level. As you can see in the video above, the creators of the electric vehicle have done away with the driver’s cab, giving the front the look of a low-slung sports car from some angles.
Volvo plans to deploy Vera with ferry and logistics firm DFDS. The autonomous vehicle will navigate a pre-defined route — part of which uses public roads — carrying shipping containers a relatively short distance between a DFDS logistics center and the port terminal. The aim is to create a system that offers an efficient and continuous flow of goods.
While huge advances are undoubtedly being made in the field of driverless vehicles, busy city roads still present a range of challenges for self-driving cars. However, the autonomous technology is now advanced enough to be deployed in the way Volvo is using it — on short, pre-defined routes in relatively quiet locations with few unexpected obstacles. In a similar way, self-driving shuttle buses are also undergoing trials in places like college campuses, gated retirement communities, and industrial parks.
Once fully operational, Volvo’s system will utilize several autonomous Vera vehicles, with the fleet monitored by a human located in a nearby control tower.
“Now we have the opportunity to implement Vera in an ideal setting and further develop her potential for other similar operations,” Mikael Karlsson, vice president of autonomous solutions at Volvo Trucks, said in a release.
Karlsson hailed electric-powered Vera for its low noise levels and zero exhaust emissions, adding that the truck and its technology “have an important role to play in the future of logistics.”
DFDS boss Torben Carlsen said the partnership with Volvo will help it to develop “an efficient, flexible, and sustainable long-term solution for receiving autonomous vehicles arriving at our gates, benefitting our customers, the environment, and our business.”
Other companies developing large self-driving trucks include TuSimple, which recently partnered for a trial with the U.S. Postal Service, and Alphabet-owned Waymo, which is testing big rigs in several U.S. states.