Self-driving trucks could give more efficient container transports

Self-driving trucks could lead to more efficient container transports. A large research project in Sweden is now investigating the prerequisites for this.
Container transport

Every day a large number of trucks transport containers between the Gothenburg harbor and the inland city of Borås. Improved transport efficiency using self-driving trucks would not only benefit the companies using these transports but also the society at large, due to a lower environmental impact and increased safety.

This is the background of a newly started research project called AutoFreight where ten partners together will try to find the solutions needed for improved transport efficiency.

“The strength of this project is the broad spectrum of partners involved”, says Emma Wermström, project manager at Volvo Group. “Efficient trucks alone are not enough to make a large societal impact.”

The Volvo Group contribution to the project is to perform research within automated, articulated heavy duty trucks and defining the prerequisites for self-driving trucks on the highway. The vision is to allow for automated driving on the highway segment of the stretch of road going between the harbor and Borås. The driver will be at the wheel from the port to the highway but will allow the truck to drive on its own on the highway.

”That is the vision, but during the project the driver will always be the one driving the truck on the highway. The self-driving functionality will, for safety reasons, only be validated at a test track”, says Emma Wermström.

Chalmers University of Technology will manage the validation of the self-driving truck on the test track and also develop the algorithms needed for autonomous, articulated vehicles.

GDL is one of the hauler companies transporting containers between the harbor to Borås today. As part of the project, they will operate a Volvo truck in the field, mounted with sensor equipment. Data from the sensors show the vehicle environment as well as the driver behavior and provide a basis for development of the required algorithms for the self-driving functionality.

The city of Borås will investigate the possibility to open a Dry Port outside the city where container administration could be relocated from the harbor. Due to administration, many containers today are detained in the Gothenburg port for a long time, hours or days.

The Swedish Transport Administration will investigate adaptions of the infrastructure that may be needed to allow self-driving trucks on the highway.

The project will run until 2020 with a budget of 4,9M Euros. Sweden’s innovation agency Vinnova funds half the budget and the partners in the project the other half.

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