Some people think that autonomous vehicles are a joke. We know how to drive and actually love driving, so why would we want machines to do it for us? Who would actually be able to sleep in the car which is not being driven by an actual human? However, there are some fields that autonomous vehicles are more than welcome in. Volvo Trucks, as usual, are paving the way for these innovations.
Sugar cane plantations in Brazil are extremely important, because they help producing ethanol, which is later used to power cars and other vehicles. Harvesting sugar cane is not exactly a difficult job. However, in the process as much as 4 % of young sugar canes get run over by moving trucks. Solution, as you might have guessed by now, self-steering trucks.
Prototype vehicle is currently being tested in one sugar cane plantation west of São Paulo. Engineers want to see how autonomously steering truck could help reducing losses, by maximizing harvest. The potential is huge – up to ten tonnes per hectare per year, which equates to large revenues for these farmlands. Currently the harvesting process is not ideal.
Trucks have to be driven manually by the side of moving harvester, which is spitting sugar canes into the truck. When it is fully loaded, truck has to move away and unload itself and then come back. The tricky part is doing all of it while staying on the tracks in order to avoid trampling young plants that will become next year’s harvest.
Volvo’s prototype truck follows a coordinate-based map using a GPS receiver. Gyroscopes ensure that truck does not steer off its path too much and the driver can focus on matching the speed of the harvester. Or can even turn on a cruise control. This will improve working conditions of the truck drivers tremendously, but for now only in this one single plantation.
At first Volvo Trucks wants to see how this prototype will deal with daily tasks in the sugar cane plantation. However, later this technology could become commercially available if Volvo sees a demand for it. Already this year Volvo is going to offer GPS-based map-reading system that will help drivers to maintain their course, avoiding damaging young plants, but self-steering truck is a little bit further away.
At the moment Volvo Trucks are testing several semi-autonomous vehicles across the globe. Not only this plantation truck, but also a mining and garbage trucks in Sweden are helping the company to research increase in productivity, workplace safety and efficiency in the dawn of autonomous technology.
Source: Volvo Trucks
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