When will there be automated garbage collectors?

Autonomous driving: Volvo sends self-sufficient garbage collectors on tour

The truck manufacturer Volvo Trucks is currently testing together with the Swedish waste disposal company Renova what contribution automated vehicles can make to safe and efficient waste disposal. The automated systems of the garbage collection vehicle are basically the same functions that have been used in the self-driving truck at the Kristineberg mine in northern Sweden since the end of 2016, the manufacturer said. "Even if the vehicle only moves at walking speed, operating a heavy-duty vehicle in an urban residential area with narrow streets and unprotected road users naturally entails high safety requirements," explained Carl Johan Almqvist, Head of Traffic and Product Safety at Volvo Trucks Waste disposal vehicles constantly monitor their surroundings and stop immediately if an obstacle suddenly appears on the road. "At the same time, the automated system enables the driver to keep an eye on everything that is happening around the vehicle," says Almqvist. When the automated disposal vehicle is used for the first time in a new area, it is controlled by hand, while the on-board system constantly monitors and maps the route with the help of sensors and GPS technology. Next time it will know what the route will look like and which waste bins to stop at, says Volvo Trucks.

When the vehicle stops for the first time and the system is activated, the driver gets out, walks back, picks up the garbage can and empties it just as is done today by pressing the appropriate controls. When the process is finished, the truck automatically backs up to the next garbage can after receiving a corresponding instruction from the driver. The driver is moving in exactly the same direction as the truck and therefore has everything in view that is happening in the direction of travel, the truck builder outlines. The manufacturer explains that the garbage collector drives backwards instead of forwards: “By reversing the truck, the driver can stay close to the waste compactor at all times and does not have to walk around the vehicle every time it changes position. And because the driver does not have to get on and off at every stop, the risk of occupational diseases from overstrained knee joints and the like is reduced, ”explains Hans Zachrisson, Strategic Development Manager at Renova. Usually reversing is quite a risky maneuver as the driver may not see who or what is behind the vehicle - even if it is equipped with a camera. Since sensors monitor the entire area around the disposal vehicle, safety is guaranteed regardless of its direction of movement, explains the provider. The fact that the automated system also optimizes gear shifting, steering and speed should benefit consumption and thus the CO2 balance.

Although the technical prerequisites are already in place, there is still a lot of research and development work to be done before self-driving waste disposal vehicles become a reality, Volvo Trucks is dampening excessively high expectations. The joint project will run until the end of 2017. "It is likely that vehicles with different degrees of automation will find their way earlier elsewhere, namely where transport tasks are handled in closed areas, such as in mines and at freight terminals," predicts the manufacturer.