Simple as it might seem, moving shipping containers into, out of and around a port is complicated and labor-intensive work.
wants to simplify that process with Vera, its cabless autonomous electric truck.
Announced Thursday, Volvo Trucks' Vera is a compact, battery-electric truck with no provisions for a human driver, and is intended to take over short, repetitive routes based around fixed hubs like a shipping port, or any sort of dense industrial facility.
A central control center wirelessly communicates with the trucks, and the trucks can communicate with one another, coordinating their routes in the most efficient way possible. The control center can create routes based on the trucks' individual battery charge levels, cargo types, service requirements and specific locations. Vera is designed to use standard trailer hookups and employs a powertrain already found in Volvo's electric trucks, so the infrastructure for their use and maintenance already exists.
"Our system can be seen as an extension of the advanced logistics solutions that many industries already apply today," Mikael Karlsson, vice president of autonomous solutions for Volvo AB, said in a statement. "Since we use autonomous vehicles with no exhaust emissions and low noise, their operation can take place at any time of day or night. The solution utilizes existing road infrastructure and load carriers, making it easier to recoup costs and allowing for integration with existing operations."
We've seen several other autonomous electric truck startups recently, most notably Einride, also from Sweden. Einride's approach differs in that its trucks are envisioned as medium-capacity, medium-distance vehicles that would, for example, go from a central distribution center to a series of local grocery stores, with the ability for a remote human pilot to take over in complicated situations.
While Einride's vision for an autonomous truck seems like it's a little ways off from becoming fully realized, the very narrow and specific use case for Volvo's Vera makes it seem significantly more possible. We could definitely see it employed in shipping facilities sooner rather than later.