Something's Missing From Volvo's Self-Driving Truck Concept


Cabs? Where Volvo Trucks is going, it doesn't need cabs.

Truck drivers are typically overworked, forced by economic necessity to pull long hauls on little sleep. And that can lead to accidents, to say nothing of the high level of carbon and noise pollution they emit. Fortunately Volvo is working on a solution, odd as it may look.

Called Vera, this cab-less autonomous electric tractor concept is the work of Volvo Trucks – the heavy-equipment manufacturer that was once (but is no longer) associated with the now-Chinese-owned Swedish automaker. It's designed to take the place of driver-operated big rigs along set routes that can be pre-programmed into the vehicle's computer.

Not only would that eliminate the need for those overworked truck drivers (and the cabs in which they sit), but it'd operate with zero emissions and much lower noise than a traditional big rig.

"The full potential of the transport industry is yet to be seen. Everything suggests that the global need for transportation will continue to significantly increase in the coming decade,” said Volvo Trucks president Claes Nilsson. “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."

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Though the Vera is designed to drive autonomously, it wouldn't do without human oversight altogether. At the heart of the conceptual system is a Transport Control Centre, linked via the cloud to vehicles on the road to monitor the trucks' position, load, battery-charge level, and service requirements (among other parameters).

The project may be a ways off from implementing for real-world use, but it's interesting to see what the manufacturers of some of the most in-demand commercial and industrial vehicles are working on for the future.