With a major row about self-driving cars taking over the automotive industry, Volvo is planning on putting the technology to greater use - helping in waste management. Traditionally, the driver of a garbage truck ends up wasting time having to drive up to various trash cans and then to get off and unload them into the back of the truck and then walk to the driving seat again. With Volvo's new truck, though, the process will be a lot smoother and quicker, since there won't be a driver needed. Volvo Trucks, a subsidiary of Volvo, is teaming up with a Swedish waste management company Renova to develop a self-driving garbage truck which is aimed to boost productivity, safety and efficiency. The concept will allow a driver to walk ahead of the truck as it drives itself to one trash can at a time. Volvo will first be testing the truck in a closed circuit and eventually use it on public streets.
The self-driving Volvo truck will back down on streets in reverse and make stops so a garbage man can load trash on to the back of it. This will save the garbage man from constantly jumping in and out of the driver's seat to empty trash bins. Instead, he'll stay near the rear of the vehicle and walk down the street ahead of the truck's path as it backs up.
The truck will use four laser sensors called LIDAR, which will act as its eyes. A neighbourhood’s streets will be mapped so the truck knows the exact location of the trash cans.
At the beginning of the process, a garbage man will drive the truck to the end of a block and slip the truck into autonomous mode, post which he will be able to walk back down the street. The truck will self-drive and follow him along the road, making stops at trash cans.
The truck will remain stationary until the man is done with unloading the trash bin into its back, after which he will press a button on the side of the truck to let it know that the trash has been loaded. Then the truck will resume driving in reverse towards the next trash can.
Volvo expects these self-driving garbage will improve productivity by saving time. Also, only one person will be needed to carry out the procedure. If this becomes reality, it will eliminate some jobs. So far, the truck is being operated in a closed environment. When on real streets with real traffic flow, the truck will face a lot of problems. For now, the truck is a research project and Volvo say they hope to learn more on the tests.