Automotive

Volvo takes out the trash with an autonomous garbage truck

Volvo takes out the trash with...
Volvo says that the technical aspects of an autonomous refuse truck are already in place, but testing and development must continue before it can become a commercial reality
Volvo says that the technical aspects of an autonomous refuse truck are already in place, but testing and development must continue before it can become a commercial reality
View 5 Images
Sensor pods located on each corner of the refuse truck help the Volvo see its surroundings
1/5
Sensor pods located on each corner of the refuse truck help the Volvo see its surroundings
The driver has no need to continually enter and exit the truck during garbage collection thanks to the Volvo's autonomous systems
2/5
The driver has no need to continually enter and exit the truck during garbage collection thanks to the Volvo's autonomous systems
Volvo says that the technical aspects of an autonomous refuse truck are already in place, but testing and development must continue before it can become a commercial reality
3/5
Volvo says that the technical aspects of an autonomous refuse truck are already in place, but testing and development must continue before it can become a commercial reality
Currently, refuse collection trucks require the driver to constantly run from one end of the truck to the other; with an automated truck, the driver can stay behind the truck as it backs through the route
4/5
Currently, refuse collection trucks require the driver to constantly run from one end of the truck to the other; with an automated truck, the driver can stay behind the truck as it backs through the route
The driver has control of the truck from outside at all times and can stop it for any length of time and resume when ready
5/5
The driver has control of the truck from outside at all times and can stop it for any length of time and resume when ready

Volvo Trucks has teamed with Swedish waste management company Renova to test an autonomous refuse truck in the wild. The self-driving garbage truck can navigate urban roadways as an operator walks alongside to feed it bins for garbage collection.

The truck is similar to a project Volvo has undertaken with autonomous mining vehicles, using very similar technology, but programmed for urban use. The truck is first manually driven through the garbage collection route as it maps and records the path and its various stops. Subsequent visits will then be driven by the truck itself, which continuously senses its surroundings to react to changes in the environment.

On the automated runs, the driver can take the truck to its first stop, activate the autonomous system, and get out of the cab. From there, the driver walks ahead, behind, or alongside the truck as needed, pushing bins to the collection port on the truck and returning them to the curb. The truck reverses itself through the route and the operator has no need to continually climb into and get back out of the cab – the most likely points of injury for a refuse worker.

Currently, refuse collection trucks require the driver to constantly run from one end of the truck to the other; with an automated truck, the driver can stay behind the truck as it backs through the route
Currently, refuse collection trucks require the driver to constantly run from one end of the truck to the other; with an automated truck, the driver can stay behind the truck as it backs through the route

"By reversing the truck," says Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager at Renova, "the driver can constantly remain close to the compactor unit instead of having to repeatedly walk between the rear and the cab every time the truck is on the move."

Reversing the refuse truck is far easier for an automated vehicle than for a human driver. In some areas, reversing a large truck isn't legal or requires a co-driver standing behind the vehicle to guide the driver. An automated truck with a full range of sensors could eliminate those requirements while improving safety.

Volvo says that the technical aspects of an autonomous refuse truck are already in place, but testing and development must continue before it can become a commercial reality. The joint project between Volvo Truck and Renova will continue through the end of 2017. A thorough evaluation of all aspects of the program, including drivers' reactions and public acceptance, will be done. Volvo believes that varying degrees of automation in vehicles is inevitable and is coming sooner to confined areas like mining and cargo terminals than it will to public streets.

You can see the truck in action in the video below. The truck is a single test unit and will be used in the suburbs of Gothenberg, Sweden for the trials.

Source: Volvo

Volvo Trucks - Refuse handling like you've never seen it before (autonomous truck)

5 comments
VincentWolf
The world were headed for is the age of the Jetsons.
Evildeer
The system where I live (Seattle area in US) uses a single driver who stays in the cab. A remote control arm comes out from the truck, picks up the bin and empties it, then puts it back. The guy never leaves his cab and it's much faster. With the Volvo system it looks like the worker has to walk the entire route. I think automating the bin-picker makes more sense than automating the driver.
MD
Yep. These old style truck have been off the road for "decades" in my region... "One armed bandits" have been doing the work of a human for a long time-for municipal waste removal (they are already partially automated, thou the driver still has to hit the "go-go-gadget" button. Besides, a one operator walk behind garbage truck is very inefficient, back in their heyday, there were at least 2 runners and a driver, the truck barely had to stop. (wheeled bins initially slowed down the process, though with 2 bin lifters that improved it again) The war is on, reducing any reliance on human labourers, one day the revolt will happen. Once Amazon is able to supply the worlds needs without human workers, where will the revenue necessary to buy the products come from?? (Govt hand-outs). Nowadays a (garbage) truck operator is a "skilled labourer", gimme a break.
FollowTheFacts
...hmmm...(I'm from Sweden myself, but live in Los Angeles)...and here (in Westchester, LA) garbage trucks are operated by one person who never exits the vehicle. There is no huge gain with this type of automation in my opinion. – What I would complain about, pertaining to the way it's done here (in LA and elsewhere) is the noise and the way the bin is lifted ABOVE the truck (this is not good), giving plenty of opportunity for littering all around, depending on bin content. ...but..."noise" is my biggest complaint...the whole process is way, way too noisy..."electrifying" these trucks would be number one for me – since there is so much stop'n'go, maybe flywheel technology could be considered? (I also think pickup every seven days is too often, but complaining about that would surely get some folks here screaming...) ...but, there is much to optimize in this field...I hate it all, the way it is...
TimBrooks
This would cut the labor cost in half or more in my area. Our garbage still has a driver and 1 or 2 throwers for each vehicle. Guess it's a rural thing that we hold onto things longer.