Scania's cabless truck shows what the driverless future of mining looks like
There is no doubt we're headed towards a driverless future, but Scania's AXL is the company's first concept that does away with the cab altogether.
Scania has already developed a number of self-driving trucks that are currently in service across several customer operations, but they've always included a cabin just in case a human driver needs to take over. Pulling the cab out is the next logical step, with the AXL controlled solely by an external logistics system that tells it where to go and how to behave.
It also makes a pretty fundamental change to the nature of the vehicle. Without the cab, it's clear how much extra space there is for cargo. It's also clearly going to be cheaper than having a self-driving truck with a just-in-case cabin, both because you lose all the fiddly bits required to support humans and because you won't need to prove you can crash it without hurting the people inside.
The AXL is just a concept truck for now, although Scania says it doesn't rely on any technologies that aren't available today. It's powered by biofuel, and uses cameras, radars, laser beams, GPS and LiDAR to sense the world around it. There's a white light bar wrapped around the vehicle that shows where the truck has detected people or objects to avoid, giving people some degree of comfort that the machine has seen them and won't be rolling over the top of them.
Certainly, it's not ready for the chaotic environment of street driving, but the mining and closed construction sectors are much more predictable and controllable – not to mention bottom-line driven, and with self-drivers already in operation around the world, it's only a matter of time before we see the first cabless trucks begin rolling out commercially.
The video below is an in-depth discussion with the engineers and designers behind the AXL, and shows some of the design, build and testing phases.