Volvo Vera - Autonomous Electric Semi

New Transport System from Volvo Trucks Features Autonomous Electric Commercial Vehicles

Volvo Trucks is consistently sets the standard for safety and environmentally friendly advancements in the trucking industry. This strategic development continues with their announcement of a new transport system this month consisting of automated electric commercial vehicles.

The goal, says Volvo, is “more efficient, safer and cleaner transportation”. The addition of autonomous electric commercial vehicles is aimed at adding capacity and increasing offerings for fleets and drivers. This development could be the solution to industry driver shortages and constraints on freight capacity. The autonomous electric vehicles are intended for regular repetitive use on short distances, large volumes of goods and high delivery precision requirements.

“Everything suggests that the global need for transportation will continue to significantly increase in the coming decade,” said Claes Nilsson, President of Volvo Trucks. “If we are to meet this demand in a sustainable and efficient way, we must find new solutions. In order to secure a smoothly functioning goods flow system, we also need to exploit existing infrastructure better. The transport system we are developing can be an important complement to today’s solutions and can help meet many of the challenges faced by society, transport companies and transport buyers.”

“Our system can be seen as an extension of the advanced logistics solutions that many industries already apply today. Since we use autonomous vehicles with no exhaust emissions and low noise, their operation can take place at any time of day or night,” explains Mikael Karlsson, Vice President Autonomous Solutions at Volvo Trucks.

How will the autonomous system work?

Autonomous electric vehicles linked to a cloud service and a transport control center handle the operation. The vehicles are equipped with tracking systems designed to locate the vehicles’ current position to within centimeters, monitor transport in detail and analyze what is happening with other vehicles on the road, and then respond with high accuracy. Transport progress is continuously monitored by a control center, which keeps a close watch on the autonomous vehicles’ position, battery charge, load content, and any service requirements.

Where are the autonomous systems available?

Currently, Volvo Trucks has only begun testing their new transport system in European markets due to their location and other industry parameters. Europe’s diesel fuel costs are nearly double the price of U.S. fuel prices. This makes the need for alternative energy sources much more pressing. Emission regulations and potential bans on internal combustion engines are also driving the switch to electric vehicles in European countries. However, much like the I-Shift transmission that launched in Europe in 2001 then in North America in 2007, it can be assumed that the autonomous system will make its way to the North American market.

Volvo Trucks’ delay in North American testing and release can actually be seen as a good thing. By the time autonomous electric vehicles enter the U.S. market, battery technology and lifetime will improve and create more applications where the total cost of ownership becomes more beneficial.

In the meantime, continued testing and implementation world-wide will act as a push for North American markets to become more environmentally friendly in large scale ways. As Magnus Koeck, Volvo Trucks’ VP of Marketing and Brand Management said to Fleet Equipment, “We will be ready when the market is ready. This is only the beginning.”

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