Scania and researchers at a Swedish university are planning a live test of autonomous works trucks in May.
Scania and researchers of the Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm will be looking at how the self-driving dump trucks collaborate to safely handle obstacles on the road and carry out tasks like picking up and unloading gravel.
It’s designed to get the autonomous trucks ready before testing the vehicles at a Swedish mining site in the fall. They haven’t said where the May test will take place.
“When you transport something, it’s not one truck involved, it’s several trucks involved—solving issues together,” Bo Wahlberg, the lead researcher for the project, told Trucks.com. “On a highway, it’s not such a big problem, but in a mining site you really have to work together.”
Scania hopes the tests will allow for the deployment of its self-driving trucks in mining operations within a year or two. The company believes mines will be the first environment where driverless trucks regularly operate.
“Mines are environments that are especially well suited to self-driving vehicles,” says Lars Hjorth, a Scania engineer. “The area is contained and the operator can control what equipment or personnel are working in the area.”
The mining industry relies on large and expensive construction-type vehicles to move gravel and debris. Autonomous work trucks would give the industry more flexibility to use varied types of vehicles, more tailored to specific industrial needs, according to Scania.
Hjorth said self-driving mining trucks could become a reality within a few years and that the technology has broader implications.
“The next step could be self-driving container trucks in ports,” Hjorth said. “And after that the technology will also come to the long haul transport sector, with self-driving vehicles driving between large transport centers where their cargoes are then loaded into last mile delivery trucks.”
While the auto industry is moving forward with adding auto-pilot and other autonomous features to passenger cars, the development of self-driving trucks provides a greater challenge because of their greater mass and inertia.
“When you do this for heavy trucks, it’s different because of weight and dynamics,” Wahlberg said. “Trucks are much more complicated—much more difficult and more dangerous.”
Autonomous trucks also require new information every 50 milliseconds to make the right decisions about steering, accelerating and braking, Wahlberg said.
The Swedish research team has already successfully tested a single autonomous truck driving along narrow and winding roads at speeds of up to 56 mph. The truck was equipped with a system that can predict the vehicle’s movements in any situation in order to help minimize deviations from the intended path.
The upcoming tests will include a fifth generation wireless communication system known as 5G that will allow Scania’s self-driving vehicles to work together.
5G is faster than what’s currently available on the market, and may be offered sometime in 2020, Wahlberg said.
The project is part of a government-funded program that includes the collaboration of other Swedish researchers and companies, including Saab and Autoliv.